What, when, and why of breastfeeding!! I come from a LONG line of breastfeeding mamas. I breastfed all 3 of my boys, my mama breastfed all 3 of her children, my grandma breastfed all 4 of her kids, her mom did the same thing and so on and on!!! So let’s talk about the basics of breastfeeding.
WHAT is breastfeeding? Breastfeeding is defined as the method of feeding a baby with milk directly from the mother’s breast (1). It is the most natural way and the best option for the baby to receive nourishment. It can be performed by the child’s mother or a surrogate -typically called a wet nurse. Women usually feed their own babies but there are times when the mother is unable to feed the baby due to death, sickness or lack of breast milk so that is when a wet nurse was the best option for the baby. Today, we do not hear about a wet nurse, but milk banks serve the same purpose.
WHEN did breastfeeding begin? The answer is simple- AS long as babies have been around; there have been breastfeeding mothers (2)! I was visiting with my 96-year-old grandma and we started talking about breastfeeding. I asked her how she decided what method to use to feed her babies. I was shocked to hear that she had to hide to breastfeed! Back in her day (the 1950’s), some women saw breastfeeding as unacceptable and that you were supposed to bottle-feed the baby. They thought it was disgusting to place your boob in the babies’ mouth! When she took one of her babies to the doctor for a routine checkup, the doctor asked how she fed the baby. She was hesitant to answer but finally told the doctor she breastfed and hoped that was okay. The doctor’s response was “well what do you think the Lord made those for? Of course you’re supposed to feed your babies breast milk!” Talk about relief for my grandma when the doctor told her that! Grandma had discovered one of the few doctors that encouraged breast-feeding in Western Oklahoma.
WHY did breastfeeding begin? Since the beginning of time, there were no other options. But as society evolved, people started looking for other ways to feed their babies. In years past, some mothers would feed their babies goats milk or cows milk, some would even feed their babies wine (3). Eventually the babies started showing signs of sickness and doctors traced the problem back to how the mothers were feeding their babies. While looking for the answer for this question, it was interesting to learn that breastfeeding was seen as something common done by royalty and that is where wet nurses came about. The royal families hired wet nurses to breastfeed their children when the royal mother was unable to breastfeed due to unforeseen circumstances (3). So WHY breastfeed?? Many doctors, mothers, or even researchers realize it’s the best way to have healthy babies!!