–This post is part of our 10-year anniversary series “Breastfeeding is…”—
Breastfeeding is collaborative.
A breastfeeding dyad is a beautiful, fascinating, complex organism. Mother and bab(ies) attend and respond to one another facilitating nourishment, the flow of hormones, immunity, learning and bonding, comfort, fun, an all-encompassing sensory experience that has generational impacts on social, emotional and physical health.
In this intimate depiction of a breastfeeding dyad, a world of collaborative intricacies occur: the undulation of baby’s tongue to help with milk removal, the contraction of myoepithelial cells thanks to oxytocin elicited by baby, the removal of milk to signal mother’s body to produce more, to name a few.
It’s clear that breastfeeding is so much more than “the healthiest feeding choice” nutritionally speaking. Take the following anecdotes for example.
Nikki Lee offers her commentary to this case report on infant botulism in an exclusively breastfed baby explaining how interactive feeding can save a baby’s life.
“One doesn’t have to ingest honey to contract botulism. Exclusively breastfed babies can get botulism. Some parts of the continental US have c.botulinum in the soil; construction stirs up the soil, and the germ floats in the air. The breastfeeding mother is the one to notice that the baby’s suck isn’t as strong. This is a reason that breastfed babies survive botulism, because they get diagnosed and treated sooner than bottle-fed babies.”
In this case, breastfeeding offered early detection of breast cancer in the mother because of her baby’s refusal to nurse from one side. This phenomenon is known as Goldsmith’s Sign.
To demonstrate the importance of the relationship that breastfeeding affords, we might consider the implications of separation. Lee again offers insight on the implications of mother baby separation in this piece.
Zooming out to view breastfeeding less individualistically and instead as a global food security system, we must recognize the collaboration necessary to support the breastfeeding dyad and abandon the idea that breastfeeding is a solitary act, a “one-woman job”.
In Breastfeeding as a ‘Resilient’ Food Security System: Celebrating…. And Problematizing Women’s Resilience in the face of chronic deprivation as well as emergencies, Dr. Vandana Prasad, MBBS, MRCP (Ped) UK, MPH describes breastfeeding as “wholly community-based”. Dr. Prasad continues that breastfeeding is potentially universally accessible and sustainable because it “depends wholly upon the status of time, energy, health, nutrition and general availability of women”. This achievement, breastfeeding as definitely universally accessible and sustainable, would require collaborative efforts by “governments, decision-makers, development partners, professional bodies, academia, media, advocates, and other stakeholders” working together, as Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus writes.
In the U.S., WIC has created an interactive resource “to help reinforce the important role that family and friends play in supporting breastfeeding moms.” The resource invites WIC staff to “click through the prompts with parents, grandparents, and others discussing when and how to offer helpful support so that mom and baby continue to thrive.”
At an organizational level, the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) uses a collective impact approach to manage multi-sectoral collaborations, working to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding and human milk feeding.
Internationally, the Global Breastfeeding Collective calls on donors, policy makers and civil society to increase investment in breastfeeding worldwide.
As part of our celebration, we are giving away an online learning module with contact hours each week. Here’s how to enter into the drawings:
Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and “OMW is 10” in the subject line.
This week, in the body of the email, tell us: Who is your s/hero in the field of maternal child health?
Subsequent weeks will have a different prompt in the blog post.
We will conduct a new drawing each week over the 10-week period. Please email separately each week to be entered in the drawing. You may only win once. If your name is drawn, we will email a link with access to the learning module. The winner of the final week will score a grand finale swag bag.