August is World Breastfeeding Month! During this month proponents of human lactation will promote education and awareness surrounding the benefits of body feeding infants and children. Many types of parents choose to feed human milk to their children. Birth parents, adoptive parents, trans parents, step parents, surrogates, and many more take on the task of caring for and feeding their children in various ways, so throughout this article and those that follow we will continue the use of expansive language to break down the topic.
Check out these weekly recognitions throughout the month for different ways to engage with lactation events close to you!
Week 1: World Breastfeeding Week
Dates: August 1-7
Theme: Educate & Support
Week 2: Indigenous Milk Medicine Week
Dates: August 8-14
Theme: Strengthening Our Traditions From Birth and Beyond
Dates: August 15-21
Theme: Telling Our Own Stories. Elevating Our Voices.
Week 4: Black Breastfeeding Week
Dates: August 25-31
Theme: BBW 2022: 10 Years, A New Foundation
Human milk is made up of of 87% water, 1% protein, 4% lipid, and 7% carbohydrate. Human milk contains everything a growing newborn may need to feel fed and full and also contains many minerals, vitamins, and immune boosting cells that help protect against infectious diseases!
Once an individual becomes pregnant they may begin to create nutrient dense milk as early as weeks or months prior to their due date. It is not uncommon for one to "leak" prior to giving birth, although it can be very surprising! This should be an encouraging sign for those considering providing milk for their newborn however not leaking doesnt mean anything is wrong. Every body experiences each pregnancy differently, if you have any questions or concerns about your ability to body feed speak with your provider or seek lactation support. Studies have found that infants who consume human milk may experience a reduced risk of:
Type 1 diabetes
Severe lower respiratory disease
Acute otitis media (ear infections)
Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
Gastrointestinal infections (diarrhea/vomiting)
Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) for preterm infants
The benefits of producing and providing human milk also carries over to the lactating parent. Lactating parents who body feed or pump experience reduced risk of:
High blood pressure
Poor weight management
Hemorrhage after birth
Those who have been pregnant or been around someone who was pregnant have likely experienced the sentence "breast is best" or "nursing is free!" however I believe that feeding your infant is best, regardless of how you feed them, and I believe your newborn would agree. Lactating may be a natural process for mammals but it is not easy and may come with a different cost for human parents. Many folks who body feed enjoy their time providing nourishment for their offspring and may feel a sense of accomplishment and euphoria when successful, however may others may experience negative sensations and emotional responses when attempting to reach their lactation goals. Not to mention lactating often comes with tangible costs such as nursing pads, bottles, milk storage bags, pumps, etc. Learning about the available options and selecting what works best for you and your child is ultimately the best way to navigate your infant feeding experience.
Sarah Foster is a Holistic Wellness Educator and Full Spectrum Doula in Altamonte Spring, FL that provides whole person wellness education along with a full spectrum of support for all birthing outcomes. This support includes providing thoughtful emotional, spiritual, and physical support before, during, and after pregnancy and pregnancy release. If you or someone you love are interested in support let's connect! I look forward to meeting you!