The origins of breastfeeding
Since women began birthing babies, mommies have breastfed their infants. A lot of this changed with the industrialization of the 18th and 19th centuries. Many women had to contribute to the family income and began to work in factories. With less time for breastfeeding, many would bring their babies to destitute peasant women to be fed. Another alternative – although, not a very pleasant one to my mind – was to make their infants suckle directly from an animal’s teat. How gross is that!
Aside from wet nurses and animal teats, various creative devices to feed infants were used. Dating back thousands of years, vessels of all shapes, sizes, and materials have been used for nursing infants. Unfortunately, the inability to keep these devices clean from bacteria combined with lack of proper milk storage led to a great number of babies dying during their first year of life.
But with the development of infant formula, along with glass bottles that were possible to sterilize, fewer mothers made the effort to breastfeed. It became more convenient for mothers to give their babies formula. With the aggressive marketing of formula manufacturers, even traditional breastfeeding societies began to leave their age-old nursing practices.
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To me, this is such a tragedy because research shows that formula-feeding results in serious health issues for the infant. Formula-fed babies are more susceptible to respiratory tract infection, diabetes, allergies, sudden infant death, and a host of other ills. Breastfeeding, on the other hand, has only health advantages for the infant. And these advantages are not just physical. Breastfed babies, research indicates, have better mental health through childhood and their teen years. They are less likely to suffer from depression, delinquency, attention disorders, and other psychological problems. Motor and cognitive development of breastfed babies compare much better to those of infant-fed babies. And this is just scratching the surface. If you think I’m exaggerating, just do a little Google research on what I’m saying, and you’ll find even more evidence for the benefits of breastfeeding.
Views about breastfeeding are definitely changing
It is heartening to learn that breastfeeding is on an upswing again. It helps that so many celebrity moms are extolling the joys of breastfeeding. And they’re talking about the benefits they experience, not just their babies! Salma Hayek told The Times of London that she was addicted to nursing. “I’m like an alcoholic. I say I’m just gonna do it for one more week, one more month, and then when I see how much good it is doing her, I can’t stop.” Jennifer Garner is much the same way. She told Allure “It’s like I say I’m going to stop, and then I’m in there, feeding her. You are not going to believe how emotional this is.” Penelope Cruz also views nursing as addictive. “It’s hard when the day comes when you have to stop,” she says. Singer Shakira told USA Weekly, “Breastfeeding has been one of the best experiences of my life. I love it! I can’t stop! I think I’m going to breastfeed him until he goes to college! I’m hooked!”
And the thing is…these moms still look so fashionable, even when they’re nursing their babies. You can’t even tell they’re wearing breastfeeding dresses. But they obviously are, as proven by some of the photos taken of them nursing their babies. And it’s not just celebrities who manage to take nursing in stride and look good. I’ve seen women with their infants in stores; all of a sudden, they flip something in their nursing top and there’s the infant suckling happily away while mom continues to chat with her companion.
With all the positive research on breastfeeding as well as the very stylish and functional clothes for breastfeeding, I have great hopes for the future of breastfeeding. Even that last excuse against breastfeeding – vanity – no longer has any defense when you see the chic and comfortable breastfeeding tops available.