Imagining Breastfeeding as Normal

Twenty years ago Diane Wiessinger challenged us to normalize breastfeeding in our language as well as our actions. Breastfeeding is not better, not optimal, not the best; it is normal (link to 4/7 piece, “Breastfeeding is Normal”).  What would it look like for breastfeeding to be normal?

  • Where breastfeeding is normal, birth is also normal. Birthing mothers are supported and cared for by family, friends, midwives. Medical birth interventions, which are known to impact breastfeeding, are few and carefully considered.
  • When breastfeeding is normal, after birth, mothers and their babies remain in a symbiotic relationship. They are close to one another, especially in the fourth trimester (birth to three months) to allow breastfeeding and parenting to be joyfully established.
  • Breastfeeding is one part of the very normal process of adjusting to parenting – a process that takes time. Paid parental leave benefits mothers, fathers, babies, workplaces, families, and society. Win-win-win-win-win-win.
  • As breastfeeding is normal, women’s productive work, often outside the home, is also normal. These are not conflicting normals. Babies can be with their mothers until they are mobile. Where this is not safe, employers and new mothers temporarily adjust work responsibilities and make alternate arrangements. Bringing an infant to work is possible in most work settings and adds to the positive environment of the workplace.
  • Where breastfeeding and work are normal, quality, affordable day care is available at or near the workplace, so that mothers and babies can nurse and cuddle during the day. Day care staff training includes safe handling of mothers’ pumped milk and supporting the mother baby breastfeeding dyad.
  • When breastfeeding is normal, hungry, fussy, tired babies are nursed wherever they and their mothers are, quickly, quietly, efficiently. No need to find the nearest bathroom, no need to hide under a blanket or special baby hider. Most passersby don’t even notice, they see it all the time. Others who see it smile, remembering fondly when their own children were still nursing. Others see moms and babies nursing at the ball park, shopping mall, DMV office, and imagine when they are grown up and will have nursing babies of their own.
  • When breastfeeding is normal, it is the control, not the variable, in research studies. In research studies the control is considered to be normal, standard. In studies of child growth, development and health, other forms of infant feeding, even some adult diseases and treatments, breastfeeding is the norm against which other interventions are measured to prove their efficacy and effectiveness.
  • Where breastfeeding is normal, other biological norms, including pregnancy, birth, adolescence, aging are also normal in our research, our society, our families.

Imagine a society in which breastfeeding is normal. What does it look like to you? Find us on Facebook and let us know!