I actually feel proud to see this logo this morning, feeling I was one of the hundreds of women who played a part in getting to this point. The web site for this reads:
The World Breastfeeding Week 2016 theme is on raising awareness of the links between breastfeeding and the Sustainable Development Goals. By recognizing that breastfeeding is a key to sustainable development, we will value our wellbeing from the start of life, respect each other and care for the world we share.
"Breastfeeding is not only the cornerstone of a child’s healthy development; it is also the foundation of a country’s development."My first exposure to breastfeeding (my mother did not nurse me or my sister) was a La Lech League meeting I attended. I think I was pregnant with Jeri; perhaps I just went with a friend out of curiosity, anticipating a pregnancy. There was never a question in my mind that I would breastfeed. In fact, a family friend gave me the option of a gift of a bottle sterilizer or something else...I chose the something else, knowing I would never need a sterilizer (and I never did). My first impression, I remember saying was "a bunch of women sitting around nursing in unison."
I was not impressed.
I'm not sure why I went to a meeting after Jeri was born. I wasn't having any problems, but I guess I was looking for camaraderie. All of the Piñata mothers were breastfeeding, which was very helpful. I don't know how many of us went to LLL meetings...three I think. I could be wrong. But ever the overachiever, I became very involved, became a leader, led monthly meetings in Oakland until we moved to Davis and then, since there was no group in Davis, founded the group here (it was somewhat amusing when I said that to a current member, who treated me with the reverence you would treat one of the founding fathers!). I ended up as the editor of the California/Nevada/Hawaii newsletter insert and one of the state big wigs.
David was about five when I finally retired. I had not led a meeting in awhile, but the current leader couldn't come and asked me to fill in for her. It was the meeting about early problems and I realized that I couldn't stand to hear one more word about sore nipples.
There were a couple of real high points in my breastfeeding life. First was Tommy K. I told his full story here, but I donated milk for Tommy through the early months of nursing Tom and then again through the early months of nursing David and I organized the group of other mothers who donated milk for him). He had a malabsorption syndrome and could not gain weight except on a formula of breast milk mixed with corn oil and other things. He lived most of his life at Stanford Hospital and died sometime after his second birthday. At his death, he weighed 7 pounds. Yes, that's SEVEN pounds. During one of his rare moments when he was able to be home with his parents, his mother brought him to meet me. David was a hefty 10 lb newborn at the time and the difference in size was amazing, though Tommy played with toys and would wave at me. When his grandmother called to let me know Tommy had died, I felt as if I had lost one of my own children. His mother went on to have other children--and breastfed them herself.
The other high point was helping a mother who was adopting a newborn prepare to breastfeed her. We worked a lot with helping her prepare and then helped her through the nursing of the most beautiful little girl ever. She was never able to nurse without supplemental bottles, but by golly, she did nurse that baby.
When I was leading meetings in Oakland, we frequently went to hospitals, doctors' offices, and wherever anybody would let us come to talk with them about breastfeeding.
In those days you little to no instruction about breastfeeding during prenatal appointments or in the hospital after birth. But they sent you home with a nice packet of bottles and formula. In the Third World, Nestles was running a big campaign touting its formula as being better than breast milk, and babies were dying because mothers were mixing formula with polluted water, and adding more water to stretch the formula, since they couldn't always afford enough. We were trying to change that.
I remember being laughed out of doctors' offices by obstetricians who couldn't care less that we
wanted to give them information about a way women could get support if they wanted to breastfeed.
Nurses came to meetings because they had to, but the hostility was palpable. Most were not interested in hearing what we had to say. We were "only" mothers.
How the world has changed!!! Now it is assumed that women will breastfeed, at least at the beginning, and ads for formula say things like "if you decide not to breastfeed" or words to that effect. Doctors and nurses are helpful.
My god, now there are even lactation consultants, a job not even heard of in the 1960s. We did a lot of helping mothers having difficulties to have a successful experience, but we didn't have the training that lactation consultants had.
Now there is even a whole week dedicated to breastfeeding and how good it is not only for mothers and babies but also for the environment. There are still places where nursing mothers are made to feel uncomfortable and people who will complain that the sight of a nursing mother is "disgusting" (but the naked body of the woman who wants to be first lady is just fine). But we've come a long way, baby and it has only been a positive journey.
I parted company with La Leche League over its militant positivity. I would bend over backwards to help a mother who wanted to nurse, but I always felt that our job was to make a mother feel comfortable with her mothering and if it was obvious that she really was not interested in nursing but was feeling guilty about quitting, I felt it was my job to reassure her that the baby would do just fine on formula, that she had given the baby a wonderful first start in life and that if it would help her bond better with baby by giving a bottle, there was no shame in that. There were those who disagreed with me and that was the straw that broke the camel's back.
But I am so thrilled to see how far we have come since Jeri was born and am proud of myself for my tiny part in it all.