Saturday, June 16, 2012

Breastfeeding a Gateway into Cultural Norms!

  The TIME magazine cover where the mom is breastfeeding her soon to be  4 yrs old son.  I wanted to talk about breastfeeding in general and then I will express my opinion. Every culture has their view points on breastfeeding, how and when a woman should breastfeed. In the Latino culture breastfeeding practices varies from country to country but, generally a woman who breast feeds in public is not frowned upon. In El Salvador for instance it is  normal to see women breastfeeding on the bus, in the market, church, park etc. In fact, breastfeeding is the norm, its odd to for a woman not breastfeed.  However, i find that women with higher socioeconomic status tend to breastfeed less in public. I have a hunch that developing  countries breastfeed more than developed countries. Why do I think that, breastfeeding is inexpensive, accessible - while formula is expensive and depending on where you live not as accessible . As a research at heart I went ahead and looked at data for breastfeeding trends to verify my hunches.Unicef has a nice dataset for various countries around the world.  The data shows that 76% of Salvadorian women exclusive breastfeed until the baby is 9 months.  There was no data for the US or the UK. However i did see developing countries have a higher trends of breastfeeding than the developed countries listed. There are many organizations out there such as La Leche League who work hard to increase breastfeeding among women in the US due to these trends. 

         In my family, breastfeeding is encouraged but, i had to do it behind closed doors because men are not allowed to see women breastfeed. I am happy about that because i wont want them to see me either. One thing I was surprised about was my mom and my mother-in law wanted me to give the baby formula so he can be strong. I was caught by surprise  by this, as I thought they would be my cheerleaders encouraging me to keep up the good job. My mom bless her heart tried every chance she would get to tell me give my baby formula. My doctor on the other hand wanted to make sure i was exclusively breastfeeding. Why did this happen? Why were two women from different developing countries telling me the same thing. I think that marketing companies back in the day did a good job in convincing women that formula is better than breast milk - think about there is no fda or fcc  in developing countries ( not that they always have our health at heart- that is another story) . For the record my mother and my mother-law gave  and still give me tremendous amounts of support in other areas-I am indefinitely indebted to them.   I had a great support system  my for breastfeeding from my cousins, friends and my awesome husband! Currently in the Uk infant formula commercial are  banned. In Iran you can only get formula by prescription only. 

 With all that being said,  I am not against formula. I had to use it for my baby for medical reasons and if you want to give your baby formula that is your prerogative. Everyone chooses what is right for them and their family! Here what i think of that magazine cover:i am happy to see that this woman had the patience and was brave enough to breastfeed past 1 yrs old.  Notice I did not say healthy. In don't think  she is significantly improving this child health or mental mental health by breastfeeding for this long.  Skin to skin contact is important for infants  Mother -child bonding - I am sure that you can have a healthy bond with child that you don't need  to breastfeed a  4 yrs old. There are plenty of other methods to bond with your child. Nutrition-i dont know how much nutrition the 4 yr old is getting with  the breast milk --he needs to eat more than breast milk to stay healthy. I dont know enough about immunology to say if his immune system is really benefitting from breast milk.  Besides she could pump ( if she can )and give him the milk in a sippy cup. What i really think happened is TIME magazine needs money so they needed something that will bring attention to their magazine. What I think is hypocritical is that if you care so  much about your son why expose him to the media and make a spectacle out of it.  So I question her true intentions to expose her sons identity.  The mom on the cover said she was breastfeed until she was 6! So her cultural norms told her its ok to breast feed for a long time, so I don't blame her to do the same with her son but, she knows it's odd and  is aware of the positive negative attention her family will receive.      

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