The World Health Organization (WHO) annually celebrates Breastfeeding week, first days of August. “This is one of the most effective ways to ensure the health and survival of children. However, less than half of babies are exclusively breastfed,” WHO emphasizes, recalling that this is “a safe and clean diet containing antibodies that protect against many childhood diseases.”
The role of health workers in informing and counseling women in labor is essential to promote breastfeeding. He spoke with FARO on this matter. one of the midwives of the Pontevedra Hospital Complex, Daniela Gonzalez, who is also an International Breastfeeding Consultant (IBCLC, International Council Certified Breastfeeding Consultant), a health professional specializing in the clinical management of breastfeeding.
Why is breastfeeding so important? A question that even today there is a lot of controversy, despite health recommendations…
“This is very important because lack of lactation is a public health problem. A breastfed baby has much less disease, both in childhood and in adulthood. In addition, we should also talk about the health of the breastfeeding mother herself, as breastfeeding also protects her. On a social level, there is also a reduction in absenteeism from school, as well as the absence of parents from school, because their children will not be sick as often. And let’s not forget the economic aspect: breastfeeding is free, it’s a half shirt and that’s it, compared to all the costs that artificial milk entails.
“It is very important that a woman prepares for lactation because the breasts are already prepared in a standard way.”
– Have information campaigns been successful in promoting breastfeeding among women?
– The vast majority of women, over 90%, want to breastfeed. Just as there was a bottle boom in the 70s, now breastfeeding is coming to the fore. What is happening is that bottle culture is still deeply rooted. In the delivery room, in order to make a history of a baby, we need to know how he will be fed, and we always ask. Almost all of them answer us: “Chest, if I can.” That is, they want to, but they see something super complicated in it. For many years, bottle feeding and many generations have not seen other mothers breastfeed their children. Breastfeeding is very instinctive for the mother, but it also has a huge cultural component for the mother. It is difficult for a woman who has grown up and has never seen a baby to know exactly how to do this. We have lost our intuition because we are very calculating, and therefore we do not succeed. They need more tribe to see other women breastfeed, which is why breastfeeding support groups are essential. There is still that shame of breastfeeding in public: hiding in the bathroom, putting on muslin on top … It is important that we are visible. I, who breastfed my three children, in fact, the third is still ongoing, never hid. I have always been very proud that they look at me and that other women see something normal in this.
“Breastfeeding shouldn’t be painful, it shouldn’t be”
– What problems do women find in order to finally abandon the attempt?
– Yes, they face problems that in the end make them leave because they don’t know how to solve them. If they turn to medical professionals for help, then not all of them are aware, and this is a shame. Even if you are not a midwife, pediatrician or midwife, you should know the basics. A woman who seeks help for cracks should not be told that she is too often putting her baby to her breast. The professional needs to know that a recommendation is needed every time a child asks for it. If there are cracks on it, then this is probably due to improper breastfeeding technique or some kind of problem in the baby’s mouth, for example, a short bridle. In case the professional does not know how to solve it, he should turn to another who knows, but never ruin breastfeeding.
What happens when there is pain?
“Breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt, it shouldn’t. True, the first 15 days, due to the hormonal component in the woman’s body, there may be slight discomfort, especially from sucking, which then passes. There it is normal, but not pain. The vast majority of pain is due to poor technique: the wrong position of the child or the wrong posture of the mother. The baby is usually breastfed, positioned as if he were about to take a bottle, but this is different.
“The average human natural weaning is two and a half to seven years.”
– How many of those original 90% who decided to breastfeed ended up giving up?
– 60% do not live up to three to six months, that is, almost half. Not because they want to, but because they are faced with an obstacle that they are not able to solve.
– What is the recommended minimum duration of breastfeeding?
– Exclusively up to six months, without any other food, water or anything else.
What was your personal experience with your children?
“The first two left when they wanted to. It’s a gradual thing. The first from the age of five, and the second from the age of three, when he went to school. The third, at the age of three, is still going on and doesn’t seem to be stopping yet. You see how they demand less every day. The average natural human weaning is between two and a half and seven years. In our society, this sounds like an aberration, but the average world age today is four years, which is condemned here.
“I assume that with your eldest daughter, you were criticized or aware of the oddities around you when you continued to breastfeed at the age of five …
Yes, with the elder, yes. But I have always been very belligerent. She was not yet an IBCLC at the time, but was already a breastfeeding super-advocate midwife. When they told me something, I had already released all the benefits, but I realized that if someone does not want to understand this, then you will not receive it. After all, these are my children and my breasts, and I’m in charge. That’s why the second and third were different.
“Breastfeeding protects women from breast cancer, ovarian cancer, osteoporosis…”
– What benefits did you mention earlier for a breastfeeding mother?
– Contrary to popular belief, it protects against breast cancer, ovarian cancer, osteoporosis … All these are pluses as long as the mother wants to breastfeed.
– What happens to menstruation all this time?
“It takes time to go down, hence the protection I was talking about against ovarian cancer, which permanently stops ovulation. This is a natural process, as the absence of menstruation protects us.
– What is your message to a woman who is about to give birth and is considering whether to breastfeed or not?
– It is very important that you prepare lactation because the breasts are already prepared as standard. Preparing to breastfeed means reading a lot from reliable sources, trying to find support groups to attend during pregnancy, watching other mothers breastfeed, and having a referral specialist to ask questions. It is important that he is aware of breastfeeding so that he does not give you the wrong advice.
– There were several groups in Pontevedra, but they are no longer active …
I know and it’s a shame. I don’t know why, but it’s sad that in a city with so many children and so many young people, there is no support group right now.