A Saturday morning recently, I was sipping tea in Kathmandu and a notification came on my phone. It was from my good Australian friend Melanie Burgess. We met back in 2001 in Melbourne during our undergraduate studies together at Deakin University. She had shared some of her recent wedding pictures and there was one that instantly stood out for me. Melly is happily breastfeeding her little girl while getting her hair done for the wedding. The photographer had naturally captured the beautiful and special moment. The photo inspired and triggered me to write this blog piece.
From the lens of a nutritionist, I have been struck by how iconic this photo is to promote breastfeeding. And by its uniqueness too, being taken on the day of such a joyous occasion. I immediately shared these thoughts with Melly with the message “do you feel comfortable sharing this beautiful photo and your breastfeeding experience with the world?” And she was happy to share!
Yes, there are many contextual and cultural differences around the world. However, the way of giving the best start to life is a common meeting point – it is universally the same!
This photo aptly conveys many important and powerful messages. It shows a mother who looks relaxed and very happy, portraying that breastfeeding is one of the most natural and pure act between a mother and her child.
Melly describes the experience of breastfeeding her daughter as being both a sacrifice and a gift. Having access to a supportive community and specialist help when needed, helped her to overcome the initial challenges.
She shares, “the sacrifice was most keenly felt in the early postnatal days and weeks when I felt overwhelmed by the physical and emotional challenges of breastfeeding. With the assistance of a local lactation consultant and a supportive husband, I persevered through the relentlessness of breastfeeding a newborn, knowing that the nutritional benefits for my baby would be worth my own temporary discomfort. I’m fortunate that, for the most part, breastfeeding is normalised and encouraged within Australia.”
Most women (except few with specific medical reasons) can breastfeed successfully provided that they receive the right information, guidance and support at the right time. It can be confusing and daunting for some at the beginning, especially for the first-time mothers. Women also require encouragement and constant support throughout the breastfeeding phase. It certainly should not be viewed as a one-woman job!
Breastfeeding enhances an unparalleled bonding between a mother and her child. It is also empowering and a source of great sense of satisfaction for the mothers.
Melly further adds, “fast forward twenty-three months and this special time with my daughter is starting to wind down. I’m proud of the gift I’ve given her and I’m grateful for the memories and closeness that we have shared along this journey together.”
Breastfeeding confers proven benefits and protection for both the mother and her child. This fact applies equally to developed as well as developing countries. Furthermore, those physical health and cognitive benefits are reaped not only in the short term but also in the longer term. It helps to reduce the risk of various chronic diseases later on in life for both mother and child like cancer, diabetes, overweight and obesity, etc.
Finally, one more pertinent message that can be drawn from the photo is that breastfeeding is a completely normal thing to do around others. After all, it is about providing the best nourishment to the babies. Breastfeeding in public hence need not be a taboo and should be perfectly acceptable. Therefore, whenever and wherever women want to answer that nurture call, they have a right to do it freely!