Friday, August 5, 2016

Celebrate breastfeeding: A sustainable solution and a human right


Every woman has a breastfeeding story.

If you ask me, I’d tell you how I became a mother at the center of a lawsuit about the rights of women breastfeeding in the workplace, and why I turned down the financial compensation in my lawsuit.

If you ask my mother, she’d tell you why she never breastfed her children. That was before the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative took place, and the hospital staff gave her baby a bottle right after she gave birth.

If you ask my grandmother, she’d tell you how she breastfed her two toddler sons on a refugee boat and saved their lives.

It is because of my grandma’s experience, my mom’s experience, and my own experience that I am now part of my local breastfeeding coalition that works everyday to support moms reaching their breastfeeding goals and walk moms through it when breastfeeding becomes difficult. We celebrate breastfeeding all year long, especially during the first week of August—it is World Breastfeeding Week!

A Sustainable Solution

In 2015, the world’s leaders commented to 17 goals aimed at ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring prosperity. Together, they formed the sustainable development goals. The theme of this year’s WBW is “a key to sustainable development.” It reminds people that breastfeeding is a key element in getting us to think about how to value our wellbeing from the start of life, how to respect each other and care for the world we share.

Breast milk is a secure source of nutrition, always ready and safe on a daily basis, and in any emergency or natural disaster. Breast milk is the ultimate sustainable resource. It requires no packaging or processing, is local and fresh, and costs the nursing mom only a few extra calories a day.

Multiple scientific studies reveal that breastfeeding has numerous lifelong health benefits for mom and baby. Breastfeeding lowers a mother’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Breastfed babies have lower risk of serious health conditions such as asthma, obesity, childhood leukemia and sudden infant death syndrome.

These benefits save health dollars, which shouldn’t be a surprise. That says breast is the best, not for the moms or the babies, but for the Earth and all mankind living on the planet.

Everyone has a part to play in achieving the sustainable development goals by 2030. Everyone should care about the breastfeeding movement, even if you are not part of it.

A Human Right

The mention of “breastfeeding movement” might conjure up such images as a activist sit-in or a protester holding a “free the nipple” sign. But there’s more to the breastfeeding movement than its squeakiest wheels, and even women who have no intention of ever breastfeeding, or men who have no intention of ever having kids still have a personal stake in this issue.

On its face, the issue of breastfeeding rights might seem like a fight about what’s the best way to feed a baby. It is not. Surely it’s long been established that breastfeeding is beneficial, but that's not the point here.

The fight for breastfeeding rights isn’t about the milk that’s in the breast; it’s about the woman who’s attached to them. Breastfeeding rights is something everyone should care about, even if you don’t breastfeed, and even if you are not a mom. Breastfeeding rights is a women’s rights issue, and women’s right is human right. It is something that concerns all women, and men with souls.

Breastfeeding is about choice. In the United States, more than 90 percent of women start breastfeeding their babies at birth. They know breastfeeding is best for their babies and themselves. Sadly, most women report not meeting their own breastfeeding goals and quit before they really wanted to. Many challenges, including not being supported to breastfeed after returning to work or being shamed for breastfeeding in public, make continuing to breastfeed harder.

What matters is that women have the right to choose to breastfeed, are legally allowed to do so in public and legally supported to do so at work. People who never intend to use their own breasts to feed a baby can and should still support the rights of women who do.

Support breastfeeding is support human rights and the global goals for sustainable development. So happy World Breastfeeding Week! Let’s work together to achieve the sustainable goals by making the annual WBW celebration more than a week-long effort.

This is an original post for World Moms Network by To-wen Tseng. Photo credit to Ewa Samples Photographer .

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