The Five Breastfeeding Lessons East can teach the West
IT’S World Breastfeeding Week where mothers across the globe come together to celebrate the special bond we share nourishing our children. But although nursing is a natural gift, how we breastfeed is often shaped culturally, with huge differences between continents and even neighbouring countries.
In the Eastern world new mothers are honoured and revered, breastfeeding is encouraged as the continuation of your life giving pregnancy and love for your child. So it got me thinking about the five key lessons that could be shared with the West by Eastern mothers. While our lives in the West can be so busy, I hope these words can help you on your breastfeeding journey and encourage you to take time to focus on what really matters – your baby and you.
Rest, recuperate, recover: In the East and particularly in India, new mothers stay home for the first 40 days after birth to recover and bond with their baby. Housework is banned and there’s no need for endless visitors or to ‘keep up appearances’. It’s the ultimate babymoon in these most precious of days, for you to get to know your newborn and settle into breastfeeding.
When a baby is born so is a family: In the West we talk about a mother being born when a baby arrives. But in the East it’s a true family affair. Grandparents, Aunties, Uncles and Cousins all step up to help out and make the 40 day babymoon happen. And that help never stops. The idea of the ‘nuclear family’ of parents and children doesn’t really exist in the East, as your extended family is just as important. So Eastern babies are born into a colourful, riotous sea of love – which means mum feels loved and supported too.
Food is your fuel: The 40-day period after birth is considered to be your ‘fourth trimester’ and is as important as pregnancy for ensuring both mother and baby are healthy. A new mum’s own mother will make sure she’s nourished with the same ingredients as my Freyda’s Feeding Food liberally sprinkled on every meal. These traditional foods are revered as a tonic and medicine to help boost a nursing mum’s vitamin and mineral levels and ensure her milk is rich, so baby has the best start in life.
The healing touch: No woman in the East is expected to ‘snap back into shape’ and squeeze into size 8 jeans within a week of giving birth. Instead, it’s recognised that regaining your figure is part of a wider and more meaningful journey to health. Post-partum mums enjoy daily soothing massages with oil and if they wish, can choose to have ‘belly binding’ to naturally and gently help flatten their mum tum. No one is expected to be pounding the streets jogging – remember you’re home for 40 days relaxing with your child! This special care and attention means your milk will flow, as you’re happy and relaxed.
Breast is best for as long as you wish: There’s no competitive breastfeeding in Eastern cultures. In the West we’re quizzed by medical officials and sometimes even other mums whether we’re ‘still’ breastfeeding. But in the East, it’s simply how you feed your baby. It’s normal in many cultures to nurse for two years or more. And it’s no coincidence this is exactly what the World Health Organisation recommends for a baby’s best start in life.
I’d love to know your thoughts – and whether you feel we should perhaps be a little more Eastern in our approach. Tweet us @freidasPantry or leave us a comment at Facebook.com/ /freidaspantry/
With much love,