photo by Jessie McClain
What was the intent of the WHO Code? Protection of breastfeeding. Is breastfeeding equivalent to humanmilk feeding? Technically and emotionally it is not equivalent. Nor does the Code on Marketing of breastmilk substitutes state or imply that humanmilk feeding requires protection. Yet, we seem to have set up a system in which we are protecting humanmilk feeding which is quickly supplanting breastfeeding. There are a number of documents written by UNICEF that state that the PRIORITY is BREASTFEEDING. If that is not feasible, then the mother's pumped milk should be "substituted" for breastfeeding. If that is not possible, then donor milk is to be used. Infant formula's use is the last resort when breastfeeding fails. This is not options of equivalency. The priority is breastfeeding and the protection is breastfeeding not humanmilk feeding.
What is different about the process of feeding a baby at the breast versus feeding pumped humanmilk to a baby? Putting a baby to the breast is a very different experience from putting your breast into a tunnel of plastic. Humanmilk feeding means that one has to find the time to be away from the baby to pump. Thus, to pump invites a degree of separation both mentally and physically between a mother and her baby. (separation may have already happened as for example the birth of a premature infant). Time to pump, means time not with the baby. The mother pulls out a machine. The cold air hits her skin as she puts the plastic funnels on her breast. Her milk pools in the plastic bottle faster and faster, little clumps of milk fat splattered on the sides of the bottle. Cap it, refrigerate it, freeze it, and feed it to baby at a later date. Not fresh for baby today. The mother is pressed for time...hurry, hurry...get it done...so much to do. The mechanical breathe of the machine eventually stops. She looks at the picture of her baby by her pump, and feels the saddness of separation.
Breastfeeding is different. A mother sees, feels, or hears her baby's discomfort. She offers her breast to ease the discomfort the baby feels. She feels her baby's soft skin, she smells her baby, she takes in the presence of her infant. Mom talks to her little one and the baby hums back between gulping the milk. The infant also feels, hears, smells, and sees the mother. A knowing passes between them, a reconnection-a rebirth. They are connected, they are in love with each other. They are one but not one. Many times a day, this process of knowing occurs. Human love and trust are cemented in the repetitive bonds of breastfeeding. Humanmilk feeding can not mimic the touch, the smell, the intimacy of breastfeeding.
This does not negate the dedication, the devotion and love that mothers who pump and store their milk have for their infants. There is so little support in our society for breastfeeding or humanmilk feeding. The question that we should ask ourselves is why do women nowadays feel that they have to have a breastpump. What wonderful marketing was used to create that belief?
Copyright 2008 Valerie W. McClain