August is National and World Breastfeeding Awareness Month, and experts and mothers agree that exclusively breastfeeding during the first 6 months provides all the nutrition an infant needs. As a mother of two boys—who both exclusively breastfed and pumped—I believe every mom deserves the best shot at breastfeeding/chestfeeding. This includes lactation support, proper education, as well as social and cultural endorsement.
The 2021 National and World Breastfeeding Awareness Month's theme is beautifully captured below:
"We envision a world in which every family is supported at every step along the infant feeding journey, with warm and coordinated hand-offs and transitions so that the needs of lactating families and those who support them are anticipated and met, every step of the way."
Why is Breastfeeding Awareness Month important? Here are a few worthwhile reads from around the web on the topic of breastfeeding/chestfeeding and why it matters:
- Did you know that in August we also celebrate Black Breastfeeding Week (this year it took place 8/23-8/27). As mentioned by Eden Hagos, a Toronto-based public health promoter who focuses on maternal health through an anti-racist, intersectional approach, in this article, there are a few challenges Black breastfeeding mothers face:
"To begin with, the historical oppression of enslaved Black women as wet nurses throughout North America continues to impact the way that breastfeeding is viewed in some Black communities, and thus may result in less social support for breastfeeding parents, and increased stigma towards breastfeeding or full-term breastfeeding."
- In August we also commemorate Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Breastfeeding Week (this year it took place during the week of 8/16-8/20). The inaugural AANHPI Breastfeeding Week was first celebrated in 2019 with a mission to shed light on the challenges faced by breastfeeding mothers in the AANHPI communities:
"The intention was to create a space for visibility of all Native breast/chestfeeding experiences, to learn from each other, celebrate each other, and to call attention to the context of injustice of Native parenting."
- Another reason why breastmilk is called "liquid gold". If you know, you know, mama. In this article, researchers have discovered that sugars from human milk can have similar effects as antibiotics in treating common infections in children and adults.
"Bacteria known as group B Streptococcus (GBS) are a common cause of blood infections, meningitis, and stillbirth in newborns. Although GBS infections can often be treated or prevented with antibiotics, the bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant. Now, researchers have discovered that human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) – short strings of sugar molecules abundant in breast milk – can help prevent GBS infections in human cells and tissues and in mice. Someday, HMOs might be able to replace antibiotics for treating infections in infants and adults, they say."
- And finally, arguably the most exciting piece of news for breastfeeding and exclusively pumping moms! The American Academy of Pediatrics updated their milk storage guidelines:
"Mothers can mix warm milk and cold, or even consider pooling milk from 24 hours together, which may help even out variability in nutrients due to pumping time or breast emptying (which influences fat content of the milk)."
Image credit: @Photography Sophie-Harris Taylor