Should breastfeeding be forced upon mothers or should each woman have the right to choose?
When I was growing up breastfeeding
was a very private matter. Moms would excuse themselves to feed their babies in a separate room. Any rude mother who whipped out her breast in public (even when covered by a blanket or cotton nappy) was glared at, as if she was exhibiting a pornographic act.
These days it seems to have become normal to feed our babies anywhere we choose, with or without a blanket.
Just a few years ago when I was a reading therapist I saw a mom openly breastfeed
her child while my Grade 2 boys were waiting for their class - and watching her with very big eyes. I asked her to rather do it in my office, yet she still seemed offended. Then again, Kourtney Kardashian has no shame whatsoever breastfeeding on her reality show. So maybe I’m just slow in catching up with the times.
There are undeniable health benefits to breastfeeding, so in a way it is a good thing that moms don't have to bottle formula for public events and parties.
In fact, Health Minister, Aaron Motsoaledi has suggested that baby formula should only be available on prescription from a doctorGreen light for breastfeeding
- to force healthy mothers to breastfeed. Pop culture agrees - Gisele also said that it should be illegal for anyone to breastfeed for less than 6 months. Go figure.What do South African moms think?
South African moms may disagree. According to the 2003 Demographic and Health Survey, only 8% of our newborn babies are fed exclusively on breast milk, and this decreases to 1.5% when they are 4 to 6 months old. This is one of the lowest rates in the world, so why are we so slow in catching up?There are many possible reasons:
• Many moms in this country have HIV. Although there is only a 1% chance of transferring the disease to your baby through breastmilk
, it is still a risk many moms aren't prepared to take.
• South African moms are extremely busy. Running around from one appointment to the next, it's so much easier to carry a few bottles around instead of making the effort to breastfeed ourselves.
• Maybe we're still embarrassed to talk about breastfeeding, never mind baring our boobs whenever our babies are hungry.
• Some moms can't breastfeed. With high stress levels and other hormone related issues, some moms simply don't produce enough milk. Even though donor milk is becoming more and more popular and not considered as unpleasant as it once was not too long ago.
• Some moms simply prefer not to.
These are all valid points and certainly tend to cause heated debate. But they are questions that need to be answered. What's your take on the matter?