While infant feeding trends have varied depending on cultural contexts throughout time, it has repeatedly been proven that breastfeeding provides numerous benefits to both mother and infant. Benefits of breast milk for the infant include anti-microbial properties, anti-inflammatory properties, support for developing immune system, content of growth factors, and prevention of development of allergies. For the mother, breastfeeding results in lower rates of breast, ovarian, and uterine cancer; osteoporosis; and postpartum depression. These health benefits resulted in the World Health Organization’s global recommendation that “infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development, and health.” Today, although the majority of infants in the United States are initially breastfed, few are breastfed exclusively for six months. Many mothers abandon breastfeeding within the first six weeks of the infant’s life. The lack of social and institutional support for breastfeeding mothers contributes to these low rates.
Breastfeeding is an embodied experience that is affected by an array of circumstances. As mothers have attempted to articulate their experiences many common themes have been found. Feelings of shame, pride, usefulness, and importance can coexist to influence the lifetime value of breastfeeding for an individual. Studies show that positive experiences and formal support within the first few days after delivery made a significant difference in the decision to breastfeed over formula usage. Supportive social environments are key to widespread initiation and continuation of breastfeeding.
By choosing a midwife and homebirth, you are already providing breastfeeding support for yourself. Your midwife has many breastfeeding books and resources to help you. She will also help with the first and most important latch immediately following your baby’s birth.
Clifford, J, & E McIntyre. (n.d). Who supports breastfeeding?. Breastfeeding Review, 16(2), 9-19.
Gribble, K. (n.d). Long-term breastfeeding: changing attitudes and overcoming challenges. Breastfeeding Review, 16(1), 5-15.
Leeming, D, I Williamson, S Lyttle, & S Johnson. (2013). Socially sensitive lactation: exploring the social context of breastfeeding. Psychology & Health, 28(4), 450-468.
Loof-Johanson, M, M Foldevi, & C Rudebeck. (n.d). Breastfeeding as a specific value in women’s lives: the experiences and decisions of breastfeeding women. Breastfeeding Medicine, 8(1), 38-44.