World Breastfeeding Week

World Breastfeeding Week

Motherhood, being a mother. 
Sisterhood, not doing it alone.
World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) is upon us again, and most mothers see the value in this week’s celebrations. As we come to the end of this year’s WBW we have realised yet again more needs to be done across the globe to gain the support of one another to increase breastfeeding rates and ensure access to quality help for all mothers. 
Breastfeeding your child with confidence relies on receiving good support from those around you. Support can come in many forms such as having your partner, family member or friend help you care for other children, a waitress providing you a glass of water in a restaurant and asking you if you would like a more comfortable seat, to the GP who refers you to a lactation consultant when you’re experiencing difficulties, right down to your governments legislation supporting you to have enough paid time off work… These all have powerful affects on mothers and babies lives. 
But for breastfeeding to improve lives, there’s something more powerful. Sisterhood – or what we can also call peer support. 
Sisterhood seems to rival any other form of help. When mothers are supported by other mothers to reach their breastfeeding goals, amazing things happen!
Take it from me and my team who have seen breastfeeding rates soar through this pandemic! 
Sisterhood requires mothers to accept one another for who they are. Loosening the judgements and experiencing the highs and the lows together, washing off the make-up of perfect parenting. Sisterhood uplifts motherhood to a new height when we just let ourselves accept that none of us are perfect parents but we are perfect mothers for our children. 
So what better time is there than WBW to sabotage our sisterhood? 
WBW is a huge global celebration of women’s freedom to choose to breastfeed and be supported to continue for as long as we would like. It’s also more than this. It’s about our human rights, our health, the health of our babies, and our futures! 
It brings together sisters from all over the world to show their support for each other. And where you see it and when you’re a part of it, it’s wonderful.  Yet sadly we still are seeing negative stories in the media, a lack of interest from many influential women in our societies and huge marketing ploys by very rich companies (many who have women working within them) in order to jeopardise our human rights, our reproductive health, our education and incite violence against us. To divide us as mothers. 
Division is everywhere when it comes to parenting, but when it comes to breastfeeding it seems to get the worst reputation from not only the money grabbing companies who sell parents ‘the dream’ at a cost, but also from health professionals with a lack of experience and knowledge, to the mothers who have been hurt by these companies through no fault of their own. It’s time we, as mothers took some personal responsibility for what we are allowing to happen. 
It’s time we put a stop to allowing the jeopardising of our sisterhood. Our motherhood. This time is precious for us. It lasts for as long as we live. Would you really want to see the mother next to you in the shopping centre suffer? Or the one at the baby group, or your children’s school? The one in the street, and the one who marries your sibling? The answer I hope is NO! But many are. In silence. 
So what can we do as mothers to ensure we and and our fellow mothers feeding journeys are seen as important, that we are important and whatever feeding choices we make for our children, that our communities are respectful and non-judgemental? That we as sisters are accepting and show care? 
How can we ensure we are giving any mother the chance at being part of the sisterhood of motherhood? 

The answer? Build a community that supports ALL mothers. Offer all mothers the opportunity to be supported by their peers. 

Where our larger systems fail mothers, what is known as peer support (in our project it’s a sisterhood of experienced breastfeeding mothers) provides a community; whether you are breastfeeding or not. We include all mothers and so far it’s working! With a 10% increase in breastfeeding rates across the county and a 97% chance of breastfeeding your child past 6 months were showing mothers what really matters. Them. Together. And they tell us. Not only that, our community has pulled together from those who run local cafes, to our council staff, public health services and members of parliament to ensure breastfeeding is higher on the political, health and social agendas. 
Communities of mothers have a powerful place in breastfeeding being seen as the normal, natural source of food for babies and young children. These same communities can help break down barriers to breastfeeding, give the proper information to allow mothers to make informed decisions, guide them through the difficulties they may experience and help push policy makers to support them and their sisters more. 
What can you do to change the way mothers  experience breastfeeding support in your community? I’m calling on all of you. Breastfeeding or not…
I want you to think about your own personal feeding journey and release whatever pain and suffering you have (if any) out into the world. It isn’t yours to hold onto and keep a secret. It wasn’t your fault it happened. Let go. 
Then get to work with your sisters at building your own communities supportive of breastfeeding whether you choose to breastfeed or not. End the notion that all other mothers need to make the same choices as ourselves and if they don’t, we can’t be their supporter. Make a promise to support one another through every World Breastfeeding Week and every other week of the year because you can. Not because you’re told by society that you can’t. Because I guarantee you, it’s not true. 
This can be the reality, not just a dream. 

Michelle Santhi is a midwife and the Project Coordinator for Milk&You Peer Support. She’s the mother of 4 children whom she has breastfed and is currently breastfeeding her 7 week old son. Just like many mothers, Michelle received poor support, a lack of information and judgemental comments during the early days and weeks when her first daughter was born which led her to stop breastfeeding before she wanted to. She knows all too well the power of mothers lifting up others in her community regardless of how they choose to feed their baby. It works and she believes it’s the right thing to do.