Last week on NPR’s “Morning Edition” a story grabbed my attention. It was called “Secrets of Breastfeeding From Global Moms In The Know” and it was part of a series, interestingly named “Goats and Soda, Stories of Life in a Changing World”.
How many of us think that nursing is instinctual for mother and baby? Our pet dogs do it without breaking a sweat (or a “pant”, as the case may be). So easy. Many believe breastfeeding is the same way, but it’s not, as my patients learn long before they give birth. I frequently break the news of this fact to my surprised patients; I think it’s best to be prepared when the time comes to breastfeed your newborn baby. But unfortunately many new mothers in the Western World report being surprised, alarmed and very concerned as they attempt to breastfeed.
A Surprised New Mother Decides to Learn More About Breastfeeding
We have a baby and we want to hold, snuggle and kiss her. Breastfeeding must be as natural as breathing in the intoxicating fragrance of a newborn. This was how Brooke Scelza, thought, a UCLA based evolutionary anthropologist who lives right here in Los Angeles. “I had that idea before my first child was born. I definitely thought I’m going to figure it out. How hard can it be?” says Scelza.
As Brooke learned, it was a challenge for her and her baby. Although breastfeeding goes smoothly for some, it’s still basically a struggle for most. “I was shocked at how hard it was,” Scelza said.
Several years ago, a survey of women who had breast fed, revealed that 92 percent stated in the first few days of breastfeeding, they had problems with the baby latching on, they experienced pain and soreness, and they were very concerned about producing enough milk for their baby.
The survey was surprising to Brooke because this one act of all new mothers, since the beginning of time, was the key to a baby’s survival. “And if one can’t figure it out, their infant was going to be in big trouble,” said Scelza.
Have We Lost Our Breastfeeding Instinct?
To some it seems like we Americans are losing the breastfeeding instinct, if not in the entire Western world. Scelza decided to figure out where we’ve gone wrong, if indeed we have gone wrong.
So she traveled to the other side of the world to meet with women who are known to be among the very best breastfeeders in the world.
In the deserts of northern Namibia lives an ethnic group who are primarily isolated from modern towns and cities; what we think of as “civilization”. The Himba tribe make their home in mud huts and survive off the land. They have a secret weapon we should all be so lucky to receive when we are having our first baby.
This is their story, as well as Brooke Scelza’s, and ours too.
It’s well worth listening to, let me know what you think about it.
Don’t want to listen to the story? You can read this story on NPR’s website.