It's World Breastfeeding Week. With this year's theme: Educate and Support. But what does this mean?
It means educating our girls, teens, young women about breastfeeding. About all the benefits. About the potency it has for themselves, their future babies, and the community at large.
It means encouraging parents-to-be to invest time in antenatal breastfeeding education. So they walk into the experience with a sound knowledge base. Yes, it's natural. But it's a learned skill, and knowledge is power.
It means supporting and facilitating physiological birth. So that the mother-baby dyad have the scaffolding in place for the best start.
It means un-interrupted skin to skin contact at birth. No time restrictions. So that babies have the opportunity to imprint those instinctive sequential feeding behaviours.
It means lower midwife to patient ratios. So that midwives have the time to wholeheartedly support breastfeeding; to watch each mother feed; to teach her how to latch her baby correctly and therefore avoid any trauma; to recognise any issues early and be able to problem solve with empathy, patience and care.
It means teaching women about early feeding cues, so they can recognise that perfect window to feed.
It means normalising newborn and infant feeding behaviours. So families have realistic expectations of what that postpartum will look like and that babies really feed and drink just like we do - often!!
It means access to IBCLC's on every postnatal ward, so any women experiencing hurdles have access to expert advice before going home.
It means extended domiciliary care. That no woman and baby experiencing hurdles are left discharged without support or referral to appropriate services.
It means access to a mobile IBCLC and breastfeeding drop in centre within every city council. So women have access to free local expert advice.
It means medicare rebates for private IBCLC's. So that expert advice is affordable to those who may otherwise not seek it when needed.
It means teaching women, their families and our community to have reverence for that 4th trimester. It means a cultural shift. For women to have a period of confinement. Minimal visitors. Where the focus is rest, nourishment with warm healing foods and recovery. To bathe in their babies, and their babies in them. Hours of un-interrupted skin to skin contact. And for that to be normal.
It means a support circle surrounding the postpartum family and co-ordinating meal drops offs, an extra set of hands with household tasks and occupying any older children.
It means normalising breastfeeding in public. So women see other women breastfeeding their babies. So our daughters see us breastfeeding our babies. So that it becomes the cultural norm, and so that the cycle then continues....
That's what "educate and support" looks like on a whole individual-family-community-systemic level.