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"James Akre"

A Breastfeeding Narrative. Metaphorically Yours, James Akre

Here are just three threads of a breastfeeding narrative. James Akre uses everyday images, metaphors, similies and analogies to approach what is commonplace for some, yet unfamiliar to others, in order to encourage everyone to look at breastfeeding from a fresh perspective.

Row, row your fashion boat

a breastfeeding narrativeWhat’s your favorite sartorial fantasy? As a male, mine is to be able to walk into Davies & Son, reputed to be the oldest independent tailor (established 1803) on London’s storied Savile Row, and order a three-piece bespoke suit and camelhair overcoat out of the finest cloth and interlining. Perhaps yours extends to the high-fashion houses in Paris, for example Chanel, Dior and Lanvin. In either case, unless we win the lottery or Aunt Edith surprises us with a hefty bequest, my guess is that we’ll both go on fantasizing while making do with the usual off-the-rack duds. Fortunately, it’s not like that with breast milk. We can easily afford to provide our children with the finest in tailor-made nourishment, and this for a fraction of the price of even vulgar mass-produced synthetic nutritional frippery.

Cultural cover-up

Metaphorically yours, James Akre
Ken Tackett

What I had learned in essentially theoretical terms as a sociology undergraduate in the mid-1960s I have lived since in very dissimilar sociocultural environments: initially in the USA (where I had spent the first two decades of my life) and then in Turkey, Cameroon, Haiti and, most recently, Switzerland. Something considered “natural” and “obvious” in one cultural environment could—indeed most often is—viewed quite differently in another. This truism was effectively illustrated in a letter to The Lancet I saw from a British obstetrician who described an experience he’d had while working in Saudi Arabia. He was making rounds one evening in the maternity wing of the ultra-modern King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center in Riyadh. As he turned the corner at the bottom of a long empty corridor, he unexpectedly came, literally, face to face with a clutch of Saudi mothers visiting with each other in the hallway while breastfeeding their newborn babies. Under the circumstances, it’s not difficult to imagine the scene as this lone Western male teetered awkwardly mid-stride and five startled Saudi mothers moved urgently to cover up their … faces. As to the babies, according to the obstetrician they never missed a gulp.

Honor thy mother

Metaphorically yours, James Akre
Ken Tackett

Mother Nature doesn’t have it all that easy what with so many competitors trying to grab a piece of the child-feeding action. And not only that, as I look around I notice that she’s often treated with shocking disrespect: like an old cow by some, like a dumb ass (the kind that’s gray, has long ears and eats grass) by others, and like an old goat by still others. But as far as I’m concerned, she’s more like a thoroughbred bay filly—swift, sleek and sure—and forever a winner. That’s why, whenever I step up to the betting window in the Life Long Sweepstakes Office, I always put my money on Mother Nature.

 

James Akre is an author and commentator whose focus is on the sociocultural dimension of the universal biological norm for nurturing and nourishing infants and young children, and on identifying pathways for ensuring that breastfeeding and breast-milk feeding are routine once more everywhere. His international public health and development career spans five decades, including more than 30 years with agencies of the United Nations system (International Labour Office, United Nations Children’s Fund, and the World Health Organization where he was the liaison officer (1990–2004) for LLLI), and seven years working in Turkey, Cameroon and Haiti. He is a member of the editorial board and reviewer for the International Breastfeeding Journal, and he is also a reviewer for Pediatrics and Maternal & Child Nutrition. He is a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of LLL France and a past member (2004–2010) of the Board of Directors of the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE).

See too from James Akre:

Breastfeeding Is Our Common Mother Tongue

Did the Earth Move for You?

Our Alien Attitudes to Breastfeeding

Why Breastfeeding Is in Men’s Best Interest

 

This Century Belongs to Breastfeeding

James Akre enjoins health professionals and breastfeeding advocates to protect, promote and support breastfeeding with humility, now that this century belongs to breastfeeding! 

Where health professionals responsible for caring for mothers and children are concerned, this is what I would like to say.

I have enormous respect for your knowledge, training and hard-won experience, but I have zero understanding or tolerance for any fence-sitting you may still be engaging in concerning breast milk and breastfeeding. If you have a cultural blind spot or two to overcome, that’s fine; go ahead and do it. After all, your health degree doesn’t make you any less a product of the larger society and culture in which you were born, came of age and were educated. But do you really think you have a valid excuse for not coming down routinely on Mother Nature’s side? If so, I wonder what it might be. It seems to me that the abundant, readily available, and overwhelmingly clear and convincing scientific and epidemiological evidence speaks for itself—and certainly a lot louder than I can.

This Century Belongs to Breastfeeding
Belle Verdiglione

As a group, you are seen as authorities on every aspect of maternal and child care and nutrition; thus, you are in a unique position to influence the organization and functioning of health services for mothers before, during and after pregnancy and delivery, which of course is what the successfully implemented Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative is all about. But health professionals who are knowledgeable about breastfeeding and motivated to promote it energetically don’t fall from the sky. Further upstream you and your professional associations and training institutions need to ensure that appropriate teaching curricula and policies are in place so that all members of all related professions are actively prepared to protect, promote and support breastfeeding as they should.

As you strive to serve mothers and babies, perhaps you would like to reflect on the following: the possible relevance, for your attitude toward the original default food and feeding system, of what philosopher and social critic Ivan Illich¹ had to say about experts and professionalization:

The medical establishment has become a major threat to health. The case against expert systems like modern health care is that they can produce a damage which outweighs potential benefits; they obscure the political conditions that render society unhealthy; and they tend to expropriate the power of individuals to heal themselves and to shape their environments.

And while I have your attention, I’d like to invite you to join me in declaring a moratorium on using the overworked, unhelpful and often misappropriated slogan “breast is best”; or perhaps we could even agree to banish it altogether from our collective vocabulary.

This Century Belongs to Breastfeeding
Christina Simantiri

My observations directed toward breastfeeding advocates, including me, of course, are as follows. If we’re not careful, we can easily come across to some mothers as if insisting that we’re the only ones knowledgeable about feeding children and that they should just keep quiet and dutifully follow our instructions. My superficially paradoxical response here is that we need to be both more aggressive—that is more rigorous—within the virtual organization I have imagined, the International Breastfeeding Support Collective, and less aggressive, by acting always with generosity and humility, in our dealings with those who have not yet joined.

This Century Belongs to Breastfeeding
mesecmaj.si

We also need to be aware of the pitfalls of the expert trap. Experts and an expert culture always call for more experts. Experts also have a tendency to cartelize themselves by creating ‘institutional barricades’—for example proclaiming themselves gatekeepers, as well as self-selecting themselves. Finally, experts control knowledge production, as they decide what valid and legitimate knowledge is, and how its acquisition is sanctioned. ²

Browbeating mothers is at best counterproductive for today and, at worst, counterproductive for always. Meanwhile, of course, we should be unrelenting in our efforts to re-shape culture, and society and its institutions, to ensure not only that mothers, because they are genuinely informed, choose breastfeeding every time, but also that they are fully supported in their choice.

Taking a long look at history, I sometimes have the impression that few topics have been as thoroughly obscured by unsound information, contradictory beliefs and illogical thinking as child feeding. Yet I don’t think it would be excessively boastful if I were to affirm that we are collectively becoming ever more knowledgeable … about our ignorance.

This Century Belongs to Breastfeeding
Ana Bondarieva

The key messages are clearer now: that during the early years the nurturing role of mothers is central to children’s healthy physical, intellectual and emotional development; and that babies are indeed born to be breastfed. Neither nurturing nor nourishing naturally can be entirely safely substituted; the best we can hope to accomplish is to minimize the inherent risks.

I’ll put it this way. Considering 260 million or so years of mammalian evolution, we’re finally beginning to see routine recourse to the paltry pay-off of a century and a half of laboratory fiddling for what it really is: monumental short-sighted scientific hubris. Whether growing awareness of our ignorance and the hard-won scientific facts accompanying it will be enough to influence political and economic events, and thereby markedly improve global society’s child-feeding practices, remains to be seen. Attempts to derive social policy from biological concepts are not risk-free. Yet, as we have learned—both in terms of the importance of breastfeeding and the risks of artificial feeding—the alternative conjures up a truly appalling vision of nurturing and nutritional mediocrity for children, mothers and society as a whole.

References

¹ Illich I. Medical Nemesis: The expropriation of health, London, Marian Boyars, 1975.

² Finger M, Asún JM. Adult Education at the Crossroads. Learning our way out. London, Zed Books, 2001.


Our Alien Attitudes to Breastfeeding: The Lactation ChroniclesJames Akre’s international public health and development career spans five decades, including more than 30 years with agencies of the United Nations system (International Labour Office, United Nations Children’s Fund, and the World Health Organization). He is a member of the editorial board and reviewer for the International Breastfeeding Journal, and he is also a reviewer for Pediatrics and Maternal & Child Nutrition. He is a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of LLL France and a past member (2004–2010) of the Board of Directors of the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE).

James will be talking in May 2018 at the conference of the Québécoise des Consultantes en Lactation Diplomées de l’IBLCE.

 

Regulating Infant Formula

Our Perverse Approach to Breastfeeding: Historic Proportions

James Akre on the historic proportions of our culture’s folly with regard to our perverse approach to breastfeeding.

American historian Barbara Tuchman published in 1984 what many consider to be her greatest contribution to popular history, The March of Folly (New York, Ballantine Books). Here Tuchman analyzes what she considers to be four monumental political blunders committed through the ages in “the blind pursuit of policy contrary to self-interest”: the Trojans hauling the wooden horse within their walls some 28 centuries ago, the Renaissance popes provoking the Protestant secession, the 18th-century British attempting to maintain a colonial presence in North America, and what the author labels 20th-century America’s self-betrayal in Vietnam.

Tuchman describes four kinds of misgovernment: tyranny of oppression, excessive ambition, incompetence or decadence, and folly or perversity. She concentrates on the last in a specific manifestation—the pursuit of policy contrary to the self-interest of the constituency or state involved. She defines self-interest as “whatever conduces to the welfare or advantage of the body being governed, folly being a policy that in these terms is counterproductive.” In addition, she considers her analysis of political folly to be independent of era or locality, timeless and universal, and unrelated to type of regime, nation or class. In a word, she believes her approach to be an archetype of truly universal proportions.

To qualify as folly for her inquiry, the policy adopted must meet three essential criteria: first, it must have been perceived as counterproductive in its own time, not merely in hindsight; second, a feasible alternative course of action must have been available; and to remove the problem from personality, a third criterion is that the policy in question should be that of a group, not an individual, and should persist beyond any one political lifetime.

Our Perverse Approach to Breastfeeding: Historic Proportions
Christina Simantiri

Applying these same criteria to breastfeeding in many environments today, I believe that Tuchman’s model provides a startling parallel of indeed historic proportions. Surely, few observers would openly contest that breastfeeding “conduces to the welfare or advantage” of all human society. Likewise, artificial feeding is widely, if hardly unanimously, perceived as counterproductive for the common human good. A feasible alternative course of action to artificial feeding is most assuredly available; it’s called breastfeeding. And if we take even a cursory glance at the evolution in society over the last hundred years or so, we recognize that artificial feeding has become the accepted, even expected, child-feeding norm of many groups, thus persisting beyond the lifetime of individuals.

Will breastfeeding, too, one day have its historian-chronicler who tries to unravel the train of events leading to the 20th century’s failed mass alternative-nutrition child-feeding trials? And will this same analyst remind her contemporaries of the abundant voices that clamored for change—as much in public attitudes as in public policy—after meticulous investigation had determined beyond the shadow of a doubt that the unnatural practice of routine non-emergency breast-milk substitution was so irredeemably wanting?


Our Alien Attitudes to Breastfeeding: The Lactation ChroniclesJames Akre is an author and commentator whose focus is on the sociocultural dimension of the universal biological norm for nurturing and nourishing infants and young children, and on identifying pathways for ensuring that breastfeeding and breast-milk feeding are routine once more everywhere. His international public health and development career spans five decades, including more than 30 years with agencies of the United Nations system (International Labour Office, United Nations Children’s Fund, and the World Health Organization where he was the liaison officer (1990–2004) for LLLI), and seven years working in Turkey, Cameroon and Haiti. He is a member of the editorial board and reviewer for the International Breastfeeding Journal, and he is also a reviewer for Pediatrics and Maternal & Child Nutrition. He is a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of LLL France and a past member (2004–2010) of the Board of Directors of the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE).

James will be talking in May 2018 at the conference of the Québécoise des Consultantes en Lactation Diplomées de l’IBLCE.

 

 

Babywearing

 

Breastfeeding is Our Common Mother Tongue

James Akre

Breastfeeding is our native language and happens in cultures where people talk in the vernacular.

Linguists identify more than 7000 distinct languages worldwide; nevertheless the principles governing these different systems of communication remain remarkably similar to one another. So it is with breastfeeding, regardless of geography and culture, literally and figuratively it is our common mother tongue, the universal primal means of reciprocal mother-child communication.

breastfeeding is our common mother tongue
lottiesphotography.com

Moreover, breast milk is the only truly universal food while breastfeeding is an act of allegiance to our children, to ourselves, and to each other. Indeed, breastfeeding is the ultimate nurturing and nutritional link—horizontally with the rest of our human family, and vertically with all who have come before us and all who will come after us.

Embracing our shared nurturing and nutritional heritage is consistent with our status as mammals living in harmony with the basic laws governing life itself. Where mammals in general are concerned—ours is one of about 5400 species—this path has been evolving for some 260 million years. We thus need to examine carefully the naturally doubtful view that somehow we can diverge, with no unpleasant consequences, from our pre-established path.

Restoring the primacy of breastfeeding requires stimulating sound judgment and finding new ways of informing mothers and fathers, children, extended families, health professionals, employers, trade unionists, governmental and political authorities, and other members of society. Making breastfeeding totally ordinary once more—which is how I define our shared goal—often implies a significant collective shift in awareness, attitude and action.

What I am saying can also be described this way. I have concluded that it is not women who breastfeed after all; rather, it is entire cultures and societies that breastfeed—or variously do not. In other words, cultures and societies as a whole are responsible for producing and sustaining the complex mix of variables that results in more or less breastfeeding by the mothers and children in their midst.

how-cultures-protect-mother's mental health
How Cultures Protect the New Mother

I base this observation on a single universal constant across space and time. With only the rarest exceptions, all mothers love their children and consequently want the best for them. Where feeding behavior is concerned, ‘best’ is invariably a culturally determined value; we respond the way we have learned to respond.

This is why, if we want to improve breastfeeding practice, we need to modify the environment where it takes place, which is neither quick nor easy. To this end, it is important to understand how culture influences the biological norm for feeding our children, and to always view our shared food (breast milk) and feeding system (breastfeeding) not in abstract isolation but in their specific sociocultural context.

The best place to be? Where all people, because they are genuinely informed, caring and supportive, not only anticipate that mothers and children will breastfeed; since they are conversant in our common mother tongue, together they also make it possible for them to do just that.


James Akre’s international public health and development career spans five decades, including more than 30 years with agencies of the United Nations system (International Labour Office, United Nations Children’s Fund, and the World Health Organization). He is a member of the editorial board and reviewer for the International Breastfeeding Journal, and he is also a reviewer for Pediatrics and Maternal & Child Nutrition. He is a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of LLL France and a past member (2004–2010) of the Board of Directors of the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE).

James will be talking in May 2018 at the conference of the Québécoise des Consultantes en Lactation Diplomées de l’IBLCE.

 

A-Z Praeclarus Books

Browse the Shelves: Our books, blog, and special offers

A quick way to see the books and some of the blog posts. 

Email Ken@PraeclarusPress.com for any information and for cheap rates on bulk purchases.

 

Top 3 posts on postpartum depression & breastfeeding

Help! I Can’t Put My Baby Down

Should Mothers Avoid Nighttime Breastfeeding to Decrease their Risk of Depression?

Why Breastfeeding Protects Mental Health

 

A Loving Weaning

3 posts on weaning

Overcoming Postpartum Psychosis

Your Own Theater of Healing

Act it Out: 25 Exercises to Heal from Childhood Abuse
A theater of healing
Birth Ambassadors
Resource for birth attendants and mothers
Breastfeeding and diseases
Invaluable reference guide
Breastfeeding Best Practices in Higher Education
Setting up a lactation program?
breastfeeding made simple
Definitive guide to breastfeeding

3 posts on making breastfeeding simple

Help! I Can’t Put My Baby Down

Help! My Baby Won’t Let Go

Right-Brained Breastfeeding

New Mothers bundle
For new moms and moms-to-be
Breastfeeding without birthing
Essential guide for mothers through adoption, surrogacy, and other special circumstances

3 posts on Breastfeeding Without Birthing

Breastfeeding Without Birthing: Hormones

Breastfeeding Without Birthing: Making Milk

Breastfeeding Without Birthing: Tips for Pumping Success

Clinical Lactation Monograph Series
4 titles at a discount
Breast and nipple pain
Challenges and solutions
Cultural competence
Working with mothers from different cultures?

 

Intrapartum care
Helping new mothers?
Lactation management
Important insights
Milk supply
Valuable insights
Professional Development Clinical Lactation
Expanding your skills in practice

promoting breastfeeding

Achieving Exclusive breastfeeding
Revised
altering hospital maternity culture
Working to be breastfeeding friendly
Breastfeeding after Breast and Nipple Procedures: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals
A guide for health care professionals
Breastfeeding and employment
$1.00!
Breastfeeding and the late preterm infant
Guidelines
History and assessment
Delivering professional breastfeeding support
Hospital breastfeeding issues
Managing issues arising in hospital
How breastfeeding protects women's health
Why and how
Mentoring Our Future
Develop the skills of a mentor
The Nipple and Areola in Breastfeeding and Lactation: Anatomy, Physiology, Problems, and Solutions
Structure and function
Community support for new families
Guide to create organization
COMPLEMENTARY AND ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE IN BREASTFEEDING THERAPY
Complementary therapies to use in conjunction with breastfeeding management
Creating and Marketing Your Birth-Related Business
Create a business venture
Depression in New Mothers: Causes, Consequences and Treatment Alternatives
Comprehensive approach to treating postpartum depression
Dr. Jen’s Guide to Breastfeeding
A fun, easy read packed with critical information
expressing your milk
What you need to know if you pump

3 pumping milk posts

Breastfeeding Mother Runs Ultramarathons

Flying With Breast Milk

How to Hand Express Milk

Finding Sufficiency: Breastfeeding with Insufficient Glandular Tissue
Guidance for practitioners and support for mothers

3 sufficiency posts

Breastfeeding After Reduction Surgery

Building My Milk Supply

Finding Sufficiency

Free to Breastfeed
African-American breastfeeding mothers

3 black mothers breastfeed posts

Free to Breastfeed

Treatment of Women in Childbirth

Voices of Black Mothers: A Book, A Website, A Movement

Growing Green Families
How to be environmentally friendly

3 green posts

Aroma Therapy

Household Toxins

Spruce Up Tips for the Green Family

Health Consequences of Abuse in the Family
Addresses the needs of those who have suffered abuse

3 posts on abuse

Addiction What Are the Risk Factors?

Bad Childhood, Great Life

Sexual Assault Survivors and Breastfeeding

INNOVATIVE TEACHING STRATEGIES FOR BIRTH PROFESSIONALS

3 birth posts

INTERACTIONS AND RELATIONSHIPS IN BREASTFEEDING FAMILIES
Insightful and intriguing

3 posts on interaction and relationships in breastfeeding families

Interaction and Relationships in Breastfeeding Families

Physiological Breastfeeding Patterns and Establishment of Secure Attachment Systems

Unnested Humans, Unhuman Nature

It Just Got Real The Secret Scoop on Motherhood
Postpartum advice from an expert
It Takes a Village
Scholarship in breastfeeding
 Keep Mothers and Babies Together
Pediatrician and neonataligist Dr. John Kennell and his colleague Dr. Marshall Klaus changed the way mothers and babies were treated in hospital
http://stores.praeclaruspress.com/lactation-management-strategies-for-working-with-african-american-moms/
Successful communication
Maternity Leave: A New Mother's Guide to the First Six Weeks Postpartum
Vital info in the first six weeks postpartum
Mother to Mother
The questions on every new mother’s mind
PERSPECTIVES IN LACTATION - IS PRIVATE PRACTICE FOR ME?
Private practioner
Phantom of the OperaA SOCIAL HISTORY OF THE WORLD'S MOST POPULAR MUSICAL
How social media upset the balance
NEW title
Postpartum Mothers
For new mothers postpartum
Support postpartum moms
Support for moms postpartum
Selecting and Using Breastfeeding Tools
Technological approach
Seven Sisters for seven days
For mothers and those working with them to ensure mothers get the postpartum care they need

3 posts on protecting mothers postpartum

How Cultures Protect the New Mother

Ten Tips to Fend Off the Baby Blues

When Postpartum Packs a Punch

Six stories of disability
Handling disability and helping physicians better relate to families with disabled children.

3 posts touching on disability

Breastfeeding With a Cleft Lip and Cleft Palate

My Instinctive Trust in Breastfeeding

Neuroscience Shows Breastfeeding Is Not Just Milk

Somebody Stole my Iron
A roadmap of dementia
Spanish for Breastfeeding Support
To help you provide effective breastfeeding support to Spanish-speaking mothers
Advocating for yourself and loved ones
The tenth step and beyond
Supporting mothers
The Attachment Pregnancy
From the moment your child is conceived to the birth
The Breastfeeding Atlas
A must-have text for the IBLCE exam and practitioners
The Dance of Teaching Childbirth Education
Comprehensive childbirth education
The Early Weeks of Breastfeeding
The Gentle Art of Newborn Family Care
A manual for caregivers

3 dads posts

The Virtual Breastfeeding Culture

3 posts on the digital age

To Three and Beyond
Full term breastfeeding

Top 3 posts on breastfeeding older children

Are You an “Extreme” Mother?

Breastfeeding “Forever”

Natural-Term Breastfeeding No Longer Under Wraps

Transformed by Postpartum Depression
Dr. Walker Karraa has forged the future for maternal health

3 posts on postpartum depression

Sexual Assault Survivors and Breastfeeding

Substance Abuse and Depression

What Power Is In a Mother’s Song?

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT CRY IT OUT
A collaborative project by an international working group of experts on mother-baby sleep

3 posts on crying

Controlled Crying and Long-Term Harm

Why Cry-It-Out Can be Bad For the Brain

Why Do Babies Cry?

When Postpartum Packs a Punch
Solace for mothers following traumatic birth and perinatal mood disorders

3 postpartum posts

The Four Pillars of Health

The Value of Pain

When Postpartum Packs a Punch

Working and breastfeeding made simple
Nancy Mohrbacher’s top tips

3 posts on working and breastfeeding

How to Give a Bottle to a Breastfed Baby

How to Hand Express Milk

Why Is My Breast Milk Soapy

Working and breastfeeding
Working and breastfeeding: all you need to know
Your baby's sleep in the first year
The first 12 months of sleep

3 posts on sleep

Sleep Like a Baby

What Is Normal Infant Sleep

Where Babies Sleep

 


 

Featured post

Why I Approve of Breastfeeding in Public

I want to share why I approve of breastfeeding in public.

Barbara Higham

In the 21st century, when images of the most disturbing nature are instantly accessible to anyone with Wi-Fi, it is still an almost daily occurrence to read news stories of women being asked not to breastfeed their babies in public spaces. There remains a sizeable number of people who will take offense at the sight of a mother lovingly nourishing her child at her breast. Many of the media reports are followed by corporate apologies and unconvincing messages of support for breastfeeding. These serve mostly to underline the fact that mothers who stop to breastfeed their babies, as they go about their daily lives, cannot do so without fear of encountering unpleasant reactions.

Why I Approve of Breastfeeding in Public
lisascottphotography.com

Publishing anything that advocates breastfeeding, especially in public spaces, can lead to a backlash from those who think it is overrated or who do not like to see mothers and babies breastfeeding. Heated social media discussion occurs when people disagree and, when breastfeeding is under the spotlight, many people are stirred to share their opinion. Here are some of my thoughts.

Why I approve of breastfeeding in public
lottiesphotography.com

I have yet to meet a woman who wants to flaunt her bare breasts while nursing in order to invite sexual attention. A mother feeding her little one has already found a mate and even if she is on the lookout for a replacement, rest assured, when the baby wants his milk, attracting you won’t even cross her mind. If the sight of a bare breast disturbs you, then have some respect and do not gawp. This isn’t about you. Whether you are aroused or disgusted by the sight of breasts has no bearing whatsoever on the act of a mother feeding her baby. There is nothing immodest or shameful in the act of a mother uncovering her breast to feed her child.

Nor is there anything wrong in a mother and child deriving physical pleasure from the breastfeeding relationship. Breastfeeding is one of the greatest pleasures of motherhood (physically and emotionally) and babies and young children love it too. There are many different manifestations of human love, are there not? Objecting to the idea that a mother or child may experience sensual feelings of pleasure is a crude and puerile way to look at what is a normal and wholesome behavior.

During lactation, breastfeeding mothers and their babies release the hormone oxytocin, which is also released by couples during sexual intercourse. The same “hormone of love” or “happy hormone” is released too when you hug your grandmother or stroke your dog, or help a blind person cross the street. It is part of our biological design so that we enjoy doing things that are good for humanity as a whole, and which drive our survival as a race.

Birth and breastfeeding are a pretty earthy business. Some mothers orgasm when giving birth, although I don’t think it is a widely common experience. Whether or not women experience feelings of pleasure in their genitals during birth or breastfeeding does not mean they want to engage in sexual intercourse: we women are complex creatures (physically and emotionally) and it is part of our design to enjoy breastfeeding for good reason, otherwise you’d not be here on this earth to argue about it.

Why I Approve of Breastfeeding in Public
Ken Tackett

Breasts are beautiful and may be a part of how human females attract their mates, just like beautiful eyes or legs, but revealing them and using them for their primary purpose to feed babies has never been shown by any research to have an adverse effect on how a child develops its own sexual urges. If anything, the child that is breastfed on cue by a responsive mother until it is ready to stop will likely be more comfortable in his or her own skin, and less likely to have insecure or unstable hangups rooted in some perverse sense of shame, making it more likely too that he or she will go on to have loving and successful relationships in adult life.

Women’s Health Today has approached this topic of breastfeeding as the normal way to feed a child before. Two notable (of quite a few) posts are Natural-Term Breastfeeding No Longer Under Wraps and When Babies are Unwelcome at Weddings. And recently, the blog has touched on the topic in a series of posts by international public health figure James Akre. His focus of interest is the sociocultural dimension of breastfeeding as the biological norm for nurturing infants and young children, and how we might identify ways to ensure that breastfeeding (and breast-milk feeding) become routine once more everywhere.

Author and lactation expert Diane Wiessinger once wrote, “Instead of waiting for the world to accept public breastfeeding, mothers can get people so accustomed to the sight that they just don’t notice any more.” Until that happens, I believe we should all be sitting up and taking more notice of our personal reactions toward breastfeeding mothers and their children. A mother should not need to apologize for feeding her child. It’s time people applauded mothers for nurturing their children by breastfeeding them openly and not in secret. By “applauding” I don’t mean you actually need to stand up to clap and cheer when you spot a mother breastfeeding her child, but the occasional smile or nod of approval would, I think, be appreciated.

Why I Approve of Breastfeeding in Public

Our Alien Attitudes to Breastfeeding

James Akre reports on alien attitudes towards breasts and breastfeeding.

The Lactation Chronicles

American science fiction writer Ray Bradbury (b.1920) is perhaps best known for his loosely knit 1950 short-story collection, The Martian Chronicles. The norm in science-fiction writing is for Earth to be invaded, as for example in H.G. Wells’ classic War of the Worlds. Bradbury’s book is thus something of an anomaly recounting as it does the invasion of Mars by refugee humans from a troubled Earth and the ensuing conflict between the colonized Martians and the colonizing Earthlings. As in Wells’ classic, the Martians are killed off by Earth’s bacteria; in the process, a wise and ancient civilization is destroyed.

The work’s title, premise and structure lend themselves as a fertile metaphorical leitmotif for the random opportunistic assemblage of the merely interesting, occasionally encouraging, just curious, frankly weird and—in terms of who we are as a species—the sometimes-exceedingly alien accounts that follow here in log-like fashion.

My purpose is to illustrate with real-world examples many of the points I make elsewhere about attitudes toward breasts, breastfeeding and breast milk. And just as comics are fond of assuring their audiences, I swear I’m not making any of this stuff up. Or to borrow from the timeless words of political cartoonist Walt Kelly (1913–1973), who believed that we are all responsible for our myriad pollutions, public, private and political: 

We have met the enemy and they are us.

February 2004, Darwin, Australia. Top down or bottom up?

A row erupted today over a police ban on traditional Aboriginal women doing as they have always done for the past 70,000 years—dance topless in public. Aborigines are furious that a group of traditional women were moved on by police, including an Aboriginal officer, from a public park in Alice Springs last week because they were dancing without their tops. The women pointed out that dancing topless is part of Aboriginal culture, and anyway millions of people around the world had already seen them dancing like that on television, such as at the opening ceremony for the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Undeterred, a troupe of topless Aboriginal dancers welcomed Britain’s Prince Charles to Alice Springs in March 2005.

Our Alien Attitudes to Breastfeeding

May 2004, New York City. Mamma mia!

The New York Daily News reported that a video installation about breastfeeding was removed from the “Sweet and Sour” art exhibition at the Fifth Avenue outlet of Italian luxury clothier Salvatore Ferragamo after a complaint from someone within the organization. Ferragamo commissioned works from selected artists inspired by objects in the store. The show promised to be “a fashionable exhibition of provocative paradoxes”. Indeed. Jenkins’ 20-minute video shows her, using a very discreet cradle hold, breastfeeding her 18-month-old daughter, who is sporting only a pair of the clothier’s red Mary-Janes.

The Audrey (after Audrey Hepburn)

May 2004, London, England. No tit for some EU tat

The headline in London read “No nipples, please, we’re British as breastfeeding film is censored” while that in Sydney announced, “Nipple causes ripple in the land that invented Page 3 girls”. Both reports concerned less than five seconds of a 45-second film promoting voting in the 2004 European Parliament elections; to show people making choices, like voters at the ballot box, it showed a suckling baby trying to decide which breast to feed from. The original version was considered suitable for nearly 400 million Europeans, and thus shown on television and in thousands of movie theatres in 23 countries.

In Britain, however, where bare breasts are a daily staple in tabloid newspapers, the breastfeeding sequence survived but shots of the offending nipple are edited out by having the baby’s hand obscure it. A spokesman at the Cinema Advertising Association defended the censorship this way: The infant was contemplating the breasts in rather an adult way.” But at least the film was shown, unlike in Ireland where the head of the European Parliament’s Irish Office, Jim O’Brien, was quoted as saying: “I decided that due to sensitivities here, this is not the right image to promote anything in Ireland, unless it is of a medical or scientific nature.” And see The Guardian report.

Our alien attitudes to breastfeeding womenshealthtoday
Belle Verdiglione

August 2004, Auckland, New Zealand. Babe in arms: adults only

Women’s Health Action in New Zealand prepared a 15-second television ad to run during World Breastfeeding Week 1–7 August 2004. It depicted a girl, probably 8 or 9 years old, pretending to breastfeed her doll. A boy of similar age came into shot and said “Yuk, that’s disgusting!” followed by a male voice-over saying, “Isn’t it time we all grew up?” The Television Commercial Approvals Bureau decided that it was “unsuitable for viewing by children under eleven” (it was permitted to run in the evening). The Bureau’s general manager described the advocacy message as being aimed at modifying adult behaviour or views; the Bureau’s concern was that it was using a negative situation to make a positive point but that many children would not understand the positive tag in the end message. On the other hand, perhaps this would have provided a learning/teaching moment by stimulating at least some children to discuss the ad with their parents.

Has the situation changed since 2004? How do you think these examples (adapted from The Problem with Breastfeeding: A Personal Reflection(2006). Hale Publishing. Amarillo, Texas) compare to current media reports?

Our Alien Attitudes to Breastfeeding: The Lactation Chronicles James Akre is an author and commentator whose focus is on the sociocultural dimension of the universal biological norm for nurturing and nourishing infants and young children, and on identifying pathways for ensuring that breastfeeding and breast-milk feeding are routine once more everywhere. His international public health and development career spans five decades, including more than 30 years with agencies of the United Nations system (International Labour Office, United Nations Children’s Fund, and the World Health Organization where he was the liaison officer (1990–2004) for LLLI), and seven years working in Turkey, Cameroon and Haiti. He is a member of the editorial board and reviewer for the International Breastfeeding Journal, and he is also a reviewer for Pediatrics and Maternal & Child Nutrition. He is a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of LLL France and a past member (2004–2010) of the Board of Directors of the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE).

See too from James Akre:

Did the Earth Move for You?

Why Breastfeeding Is in Men’s Best Interest

 

Did the Earth Move for You?

Which of the following four options best describes the first time you had sex with a partner? James Akre on doing what comes naturally …

Notwithstanding conventional carnal canons framed in Hollywood storytelling, Harlequin romance novels and bodice-ripper fiction, which of the following four options best describes the first time you had sex with a partner?

  1. Exquisite! The earth moved magically for both of us; we were instantly attuned to meeting each other’s every need; and we were totally fulfilled by the experience!
  2. It was okay but we quickly realized that we still had a lot to learn. So, we promptly resolved to do two things: educate ourselves—and keep doing it until we got it right!
  3. Frankly disappointing. I remember thinking: Is this all there is?! Too big an investment for too small a gain, really. I might try it again one day, but there’s obviously no hurry.
  4. I found the whole experience disgusting and degrading! I decided, then and there, that flying solo was the way for me. Today, I achieve my pleasure by artificial means only.

did-the-earth-move-for-you

Perhaps we need a reference book about ignorance, including a chapter especially devoted to the generic implications of not knowing what we don’t know. What I have in mind is reflected in the all-purpose lament:

“I didn’t think it was going to be this difficult!”—whether “it” refers to riding a bike, having sex … or breastfeeding.

Is it the flawed perception that breastfeeding is so utterly intuitive that leads many observers to assume a no-instructions-required attitude in this regard, and then to be surprised that it’s “so difficult”? This remarkably common premise—and sure-fire recipe for disappointment and failure—is especially ironic if you consider how lacking in positive breastfeeding role models so much of popular culture is today.

Did the Earth Move For You?
Karina Maria Nederby The Art of Nursing

We may in fact be more aware of the challenge of learning to ride a bike or having sex—and more confident in our ability to do both well—than we are of breastfeeding. All three are just as surely natural acts as they are learned behaviors; and even if each is not especially difficult, we still need to know the basics and apply ourselves—until we get it right.

James Akre is an author and commentator whose focus is on the sociocultural dimension of the universal biological norm for nurturing and nourishing infants and young children, and on identifying pathways for ensuring that breastfeeding and breast-milk feeding are routine once more everywhere.

His international public health and development career spans five decades, including more than 30 years with agencies of the United Nations system (International Labour Office, United Nations Children’s Fund, and the World Health Organization where he was the liaison officer (1990–2004) for LLLI), and seven years working in Turkey, Cameroon and Haiti.

He is a member of the editorial board and reviewer for the International Breastfeeding Journal, and he is also a reviewer for Pediatrics and Maternal & Child Nutrition. He is a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of LLL France and a past member (2004–2010) of the Board of Directors of the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE). James lives in Geneva, Switzerland.

See too from James Akre:
Karina Maria Nederby
Karina Maria Nederby The Art of Nursing

A Breastfeeding Narrative. Metaphorically Yours, James Akre

Breastfeeding Is Our Common Mother Tongue

Our Alien Attitudes to Breastfeeding

Why Breastfeeding Is in Men’s Best Interest

 

Why Breastfeeding is in Men’s Best Interest

James Akre looks at human motivation and cultural influences on behavior as he tells us about breastfeeding from a man’s perspective.

This article is published with the author’s gracious permission.

No one would dispute that breastfeeding is a quintessentially feminine act. However, some might wonder how a man can be passionate and committed about breastfeeding. I have commented often on the topic’s sociocultural dimension but without explicitly identifying the source of my passion and commitment. I will endeavor to do that now.

I’ll start with my three most relevant credentials: I’ve been a mammal since 1944; I’ve been a dad since 1974; and I’ve been a granddad since 2000. Oh, and by the time I retired in 2004, I had also worked for three decades in the field of international public health nutrition.

I lived my first two decades in the United States and came of age in a highly conflicted anti-pleasure environment. This coincided with a breastfeeding initiation rate of only 25% during the period 1946–1950 (it dropped to 22%, its historic low, in 1972). Distrust, even fear, of the human body contrasted with the era’s often morbid obsession with sexuality and varying degrees of associated denial, hypocrisy and guilt.

why-breastfeeding-is in-a-man's-best-interest
Ken Tackett

We should be able to do better than that, I reasoned; and I credit the traditional farming community in Cameroon, where I worked for several years in my mid-20s, for showing me how. Recalling the outmoded maxim that children should be seen and not heard, I have no memory of kids crying during that period. Mothers routinely carried their young children; physical contact was continuous; and breastfeeding was so commonplace as to go utterly unnoticed.

In addition to that formative intercultural experience, other factors include my abiding interest in human motivation; cultural influences on behavior in the diverse environments where I have lived and worked: the U.S., Cameroon, Turkey, Haiti and Switzerland; the implications of acting, or failing to act, in a manner consistent with our nature; and how the universal biological norm for nurturing our babies is variously molded within society.

An interesting comparison

why-breastfeeding-is-in-men's-best-interest
Ken Tackett

Add persistent curiosity, since my teen years, about how “deviant behavior” is defined in a given sociocultural context; who goes to prison and for how long (the U.S. has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world); and the all too frequent neglect of crime prevention in favor of criminal confinement. Though interpretive caution is called for, it is nevertheless instructive to compare breastfeeding and incarceration rates in the same environment.

Years ago, I observed that countries with low incarceration rates often have high breastfeeding rates and vice versa. I am not claiming categorically that breastfeeding keeps people out of prison, although research suggests that may well be true in several meaningful ways. What I am saying, however, is that breastfeeding is a significant surrogate measure of how effectively society nurtures, in the broadest sense of the term, its most vulnerable members.

Consider as well the impact of breast milk and breastfeeding on cognition; educational, mental, psychomotor and behavioral functioning; decreasing the risk of neuropsychological deficits; and laying the foundation for meaningful relationships. Mammals have been evolving for 260 million years or so, and today there are some 5400 species, each with its own inimitable milk. Indeed, humans may have the most complex milk of all. We don’t need to be scientists to conclude that we won’t achieve our developmental potential if we fail to consume the unique first-food that is tailor-made for us.

What’s in it

why-breastfeeding-is-in-man's-best-interest
Christiane Engel

Human milk’s principal protein, alpha-lactalbumin, plays an essential role in lactose production while protecting the newborn’s gut against disease. The protein’s therapeutic potential was also uncovered in 1995 as a self-destruct trigger for cancerous tumor cells. This was followed, in 2013, with the discovery that the same protein may hold the key to defeating lethal hospital-acquired staph infections. Stem cells were first detected in human milk in 2007. Today, they can be directed to become other body cell types such as bone, fat, liver and brain cells. Only recently have we begun to understand that human milk’s more than 200 complex carbohydrates are not there to feed babies. Instead, they nourish the billions of microorganisms that make up the healthy gut flora and protect against infection and disease. In addition, other molecules in a mother’s milk help shape her child’s lifelong immune responses, and promote tolerance for microbes while keeping them in the gut and away from the rest of the body. Discoveries like these offer important insights into how much there is still to learn about human milk and its impact on both child growth and development, and human health and well-being in general. Scientists are calling mother’s milk the ultimate personalized medicine.

Thus, as I see it, being male in no way disqualifies me from adopting a pro-breastfeeding perspective. On the contrary, since breast milk and breastfeeding are in the best interest of women and children, they are inevitably in the best interest of men. So, too, is the support from men, and fathers in particular, that validates the time and effort women invest in breastfeeding even as it enhances prospects for success.

However, there’s no need to be a parent to appreciate the multiple rewards of surrounding ourselves with healthy, well-adjusted and clever people who begin life’s journey in keeping with Nature’s plan. But let’s be clear about the implications here.

since breast milk and breastfeeding are in the best interest of women and children, they are inevitably in the best interest of men.

Suitable food?

why-breastfeeding-is-in-men's-best-interest
Ken Tackett

Breastfeeding doesn’t make us smarter; rather, not breastfeeding results in falling short of our intellectual promise. Human babies will never achieve their genetic potential by ingesting a pediatric fast-food—I’m talking infant formula here—prepared from the milk of a species that’s alien to ours.

There are no benefits to breastfeeding, only varying degrees of risk, for the health of mothers and children, of not breastfeeding. Indeed, extolling the “benefits of breastfeeding” makes as much sense as touting the “benefits of walking upright on two feet.” Both are defining feature—no more and certainly no less—of what it means to be human. And speaking of walking upright, surely advocating regular exercise is unlikely to be construed as an attempt to humiliate those of us confined to wheelchairs. Yet some observers take exception to promoting breastfeeding, claiming that the real purpose is to shame formula feeders.

Bear in mind that infant formula was originally intended for use as an emergency nutrition intervention. Thus, pitching formula as suitable for routine consumption deprives it of its only claim to legitimacy as a life-sustaining crisis commodity for children with no access to human milk.

The best place to be? Where all people, because they are informed, caring and supportive, not only anticipate that mothers will provide their children with human milk; they also take the appropriate steps, as part of normalized behavior, to ensure they can do just that.

For all these reasons then, I conclude that breastfeeding is neither a woman’s issue nor a man’s issue. Breastfeeding is a human issue of fundamental importance to us all.

En français http://quebec.huffingtonpost.ca/james-akre-/allaitement-un-homme-en-parle_b_10115386.html et ici 

Auf deutsch

En español


James Akre’s international public health and development career spans five decades, including more than 30 years with agencies of the United Nations system (International Labour Office, United Nations Children’s Fund, and the World Health Organization). He is a member of the editorial board and reviewer for the International Breastfeeding Journal, and he is also a reviewer for Pediatrics and Maternal & Child Nutrition. He is a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of LLL France and a past member (2004–2010) of the Board of Directors of the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE).

James spoke in May 2018 at the conference of the Québécoise des Consultantes en Lactation Diplomées de l’IBLCE.

 

 

Read more about your importance, dads and grandmas!

 

 

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