Young breastfeeding advocate gets involved in community breastfeeding promotion, support

All of the dinosaur masks were gone at the Milwaukee County Zoo’s Prehistoric Preview. Willow was so bummed.

“It’s OK, hunnie,” I reassured her. “We can color some dinos at home.”

I watched her as she processed the situation wondering if I’d soon be on damage control, wiping away tears of disappointment.

And then Lauren approached us. Lauren is a sweet, young girl who was lucky enough to snag one of the last dino masks.

“She can have mine if she wants it,” Lauren said in a timid voice as she handed the mask to Willow. “I already started to color it, but she can have it.”

Willow beamed with joy. We thanked her profusely.

I turned to my friend who joined us for the zoo event.

“There’s hope for our world!” I exclaimed.

I don’t often view our future so optimistically, but Lauren’s small act of kindness made a big impact.

Scott poses next to her bumper sticker that reads: Affordable Healthcare Starts with Breastfeeding
Scott poses next to her bumper sticker that reads: Affordable Health Care Begins With Breastfeeding

I recently got in touch with another young woman who brightens my view on the world and who is changing things for the better.

Clara Scott is a young woman who likes to play guitar, knit, sing, play and coach volleyball. Scott also volunteers at Birmingham’s Baby Café and recently completed The Lactation Counselor Training Course through a grant from The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO).

“I enjoyed the course ten times more than I thought I would!” Scott exclaims.

“The most interesting thing I learned from The Lactation Counselor Training Course was how complicated human beings have made the whole birthing and breastfeeding process,” Scott continues. “Although physiologically breastfeeding is a flawless and complicated process, mom and baby have the hard wiring and instinctual knowledge to learn the simple act of breastfeeding. I think it is interesting that humans feel the need to interfere with and complicate the natural processes of birthing and breastfeeding.”

This summer, Scott has been working at Simon Williamson Clinic (her mom’s pediatric clinic.) She helps counsel patients, but has also helped to create more breastfeeding-friendly office policies in the pediatric department.

Among her peers, Scott’s sophisticated views about infant feeding seem to be unique.

“People my age and in my friend group tend to think breastfeeding is gross, inconvenient, painful, and unladylike,” Scott explains. “Although some of my friends may realize that breastfeeding is great in theory, most are still skeptical of it.”

“Another factor that scares people my age away is the social stigma towards breastfeeding,” she continues. “In our culture breasts have become very sexualized and I think it’s hard for teenagers, especially girls, to feel comfortable with their own bodies let alone the idea of breastfeeding.”

Exposure to breastfeeding, more specifically positive or negative exposure, makes a huge difference in how she and her friends look at infant feeding.

Scott compares two of her breastfed friends. The mother of the first friend she recalls developed mastitis early postpartum. She was also pressured by physicians to feed her baby formula.

“Needless to say my friend now has a negative and skeptical attitude towards breastfeeding because her mother had such a painful and devastating breastfeeding experience,” Scott explains.

The second friend she describes was born and raised in Norway until she was five.

Norway has extremely high breastfeeding rates and my friend’s parents had the knowledge and the resources to ensure a successful breastfeeding experience,” Scott says. “This friend is an older sister and grew up watching her mom successfully breastfeed her younger sister, which helped develop her positive attitude towards breastfeeding.”

As for Scott, she’s also developed positive attitudes about breastfeeding through positive exposure; favorable breastfeeding experiences abound in Scott’s family.

“All these stories have had one common theme: breastfeeding in normal, natural, and purely magical,” she reflects.

For example, Scott recalls the birth of her cousin’s baby: “I will never forget a conversation I had with my paternal grandmother shortly after we went to visit my cousin in the hospital. My grandmother told me about how no experience could compare to waking up in the middle of the night and sitting down to breastfeed a baby.”

Breastfeeding education in Scott’s studies thus far has been minimal. She reports briefly covering wet nursing and the introduction of formula during the Industrial Revolution in her European history studies.

Scott plans to complete an independent study with one of her favorite history teachers on the social, economical, and political constraints on breastfeeding.

As part of these studies, she will read: Beyond Health, Beyond Choice: Breastfeeding Constraints and Realities by Paige Hall Smith, Bernice Hausman, and Miriam Labbok and The Politics of Breastfeeding: When Breasts are Bad for Business by Gabrielle Palmer.

“I am really excited to be able to continue to learn about breastfeeding and the effects it has had on society and the effects society has had on it,” Scott says.

Scott’s enthusiasm for breastfeeding doesn’t stop there. She sports a bumper sticker that reads Affordable Health Care Begins With Breastfeeding.

A friend’s father warned her to “be careful with that sticker…because people might be angry about it.”

Living in Alabama, where breastfeeding rates are low, Scott says they experience a lot of “political strife over health care issues.”
“…Breastfeeding is something I am very passionate about, so if anyone confronts me about my sticker, I am prepared to tell them why I am so passionate about breastfeeding and why I truly believe that affordable health care begins with breastfeeding!”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.