Over 170 countries are currently promoting support for breastfeeding as the world marks breastfeeding week, starting today. This year, the 25th year celebrating breastfeeding week, is focused on “Sustaining Breastfeeding Together.”
The World Health Organization has declared a global goal of fostering a world where women can “practice exclusive breastfeeding and all infants should be fed exclusively on breast milk from birth to four to six months of age.” The goal can be achieved by “creating an appropriate environment of awareness and support so that women can breastfeed in this manner.” That involves fostering a breastfeeding culture and increasing women’s confidence in their ability to breastfeed.
Viral reaction to a public figure breastfeeding her baby
Over the last few days alone, the media has reacted in diverse ways to the photo of the daughter of the Kyrgyz president breastfeeding her child.
Aleya Shagieva spoke out recently after she was criticized for posting the above picture of herself on social media. She posted it to Instagram in April, saying, “I will feed my child whenever and wherever he needs to be fed.” But she was accused of “immoral behavior” on social media and felt pressured to take the photo down.
Speaking to the BBC, Shagieva said there is a culture that over-sexualizes the female body, and that was what caused the outrage. “When I’m breastfeeding my child, I feel like I’m giving him the best I can give. Taking care of my baby and attending to his needs is more important to me than what people say about me,” she said.
Canadian gender studies expert, Victoria Tahmesebi, tweeted, “From a capitalist viewpoint, women’s breasts can create profit as long as they are sexualized. Breastfeeding in public makes women’s breasts less sexy, therefore it is not acceptable.”
The world needs to empower women by removing “constraints and influences that manipulate perceptions and behavior towards breastfeeding… (and eliminating) obstacles to breastfeeding within the health system, the workplace and the community,” the World Health Organization declared in 1990, in the Innocenti Declaration which sparked World Breastfeeding Week.
The World Health Organization says that so far, no countries are fully meeting the recommended standards:
— WHO (@WHO) August 1, 2017
Women taking action this week
In response to Breastfeeding Week, women in the U.S., U.K. and around the world are taking photos of themselves breastfeeding and posting the photos to social media. On Twitter, many are using the hashtag #normalisebreastfeeding, as well as #wbw2017 and #worldbreastfeedingweek.
— PoundCake (@SminitheSupreme) August 1, 2017
Eirene Heidelberger, president of the Chicago-based parent-coaching firm, GIT, told the Chicago Tribune that people can make more of an effort to talk to a breastfeeding mother about the “awkward and embarrassing things.” She suggested asking a mother, “How are your boobs? Are they engorged? How do you feel? Are your nipples cracking?” She argues that such conversations break the ice and help a mother feel comfortable with what she’s doing.
So what’s your take on Breastfeeding Week? Would you post a photo of yourself feeding your baby?