Encouraging, supporting & promoting (whatever that means)

Well July is over and we didn't quite get through all 5 of the dietary guidelines, but perhaps it was fate because here we are at Guideline 4 and it just happens to be World Breastfeeding Week (Aug 1st - 7th). If you've already decided not to read on because you feel this isn't relevant to you my challenge for you is simply to keep reading, because actually, it is.

Guideline 4

Encourage, support and promote breastfeeding*

This guideline is short and to the point. I'm not going to go on and list all the wonderful reasons why breastfeeding is recommended (but you should absolutely read about them here). Instead, I think we should have a discussion on what this guideline doesn't imply:

  • The guideline doesn't imply that you have to denounce all other forms of infant feeding to encourage, support and promote breastfeeding

Breastfeeding can be a very emotionally charged subject. Let's be clear on one thing - No one should ever, EVER, be made to feel judged about how they feed their baby. Every family has a different journey with their bub and makes choices based on the very best option for their individual situation.

However, we shouldn't avoid having conversations about breastfeeding because we're afraid of offending somebody. Talk about it in a positive way, a respectful way, a non-self-righteous way, an honest way, but don't avoid talking about it. The less we talk about breastfeeding, the harder it is to normalise it. Encouraging, supporting and promoting breastfeeding can happen simply by talking about it, and you probably won't even know you're doing it.

  • The guideline doesn't imply that you have to be a card-carrying, banner waving activist to encourage, support and promote breastfeeding

As mentioned above, the simple act of talking about it, normalising it, can be a way to encourage, support and promote breastfeeding. Other non-extremist ways of encouraging, support and promoting breastfeeding can also look like this:

- New dads reading and informing themselves about breastfeeding, so they can provide informed support to their partners.

- Friends and family offering to spend some time entertaining the older siblings of a new baby, so mum can have some distraction free time while establishing breastfeeding.

- Health professionals asking the question "how are you feeling about breastfeeding?" when consulting with an expectant mother.

- Explaining to a young curious child what is happening, when they see a baby being breastfed in public, i.e."baby must be hungry so their mummy is feeding them".

- Considering a breastfreeding friend when planning social gatherings.

And finally

  • The guideline doesn't imply that you have to be directly involved with a baby to encourage, support and promote breastfeeding.

Simply being 'okay with it' and seeing breastfeeding as a normal everyday part of living in a society. Accepting that if you are in public you might see a mother breastfeeding their baby and it won't affect your day. If you don't like seeing it, find a way to personally deal with it knowing that it is your issue, not the mothers. Making breastfeeding normal means making it a more comfortable and easier choice for a new mother. Normalising breastfeeding = encouraging, supporting and promoting it.

*eatforhealth.gov.au, Australian Dietary Guidelines 1-5, viewed 4th August 2014, http://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/guidelines/australian-dietary-guidelines-1-5