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Breastfeeding is one of nine components of our Evolved Nest. Every animal has an evolved nest for its young that forms part of an extra-genetic inheritance corresponding to the needs and maturational pace of offspring. Humanity’s evolved nest (aka, evolved developmental niche; EDN) in early life includes soothing perinatal experiences, extensive breastfeeding and positive touch, free play with multi-aged peers, nature immersion and connection, and routine healing practices. Human variations observed among hunter-gatherer societies also include positive social support for the mother-child dyad and multiple responsive adult caregivers. All these caregiving practices are correlated with health outcomes, but also with social and moral development.
Infant feeding practices have a profound impact on population health outcomes: reducing rates of chronic diseases including diabetes, obesity, and certain cancers. This is why increasing breastfeeding rates and creating lactation-friendly environments have been identified as critical public health priorities both nationally and globally. Yet, here in the United States, barriers to establishing and maintaining the human milk feeding relationship are persistent, pervasive, and magnify health disparities. The United States is the only developed nation without family wellness support policies and structures in place, and therefore, we are the sickest developed nation as well.
ON-REQUEST BREASTFEEDING - Occurs for Several Years.
What To Do
· Provide the breast whenever the baby indicates rooting and other signals of need for the breast. This is part of responsive parenting described above.
· Don’t make the baby wait or stress hormones start to flow.
· Breastfeed for at least a year if not 4 or 5 as in our species-normal societies.
Breastfeeding frequency. Mammalian milk is species specific for each of the over 4,000 mammalian species (AAP, 2005). Human milk is of the thin, rather than thick, variety, which is related to frequent ingestion or at least suckling (on average every 20 minutes for infants as recorded by anthropologists; see Hewlett & Lamb, 2005; Konner & Worthman, 1980).
Breastfeeding length. In the ancestral context, breastfeeding took place on average from 2-5 years (weaning at age 4 on average; Konner, 2005; 2010). These patterns are still evident in aboriginal populations little influenced by outside cultures. According to Dettwyler’s (1995) review (see table 3) humans should be breastfeeding much longer than they are, based on what other primates do in relation to offspring maturation schedule. The end of the range, age 6-7, is when the immune system reaches adult levels and much of the brain is completed (Parham, 2004).
Human mothers, who provided immunity through the placenta, continue to provide immunity after birth, first with colostrum immediately after birth and thereafter with breast milk. Although infants have gastric enzymes for digesting their mother’s colostrum and milk, digestive enzymes for other foods do not develop for several months. Breast milk abounds with infection fighting agents that foster immune and digestive health in the young child. Specific to the environment in which the mother and infant find themselves, mammalian milk produces antibodies for various infective agents (e.g., Slusser & Powers, 1997).
See The Evolved Nest's Learning Center.
Find Community Groups through Attachment Parenting International
See an extensive list of Breastfeeding Resources here and below.
Attachment Parenting International. What we do is based in broad research that shows supportive social ties are not optional. They're health requirements. When we bring communities and parents together, we aim to fill that essential health-giving requirement for them and for their children. But that's just the start.
We provide resources, training and support for independent professionals and community-based peer leaders. We are committed to sharing free and low-cost, research-based resources that help us all work together to nurture parents. We use small group methods that bring parents together to discuss, share and learn to use effective parenting skills that promote healthy parent-child relationships and serve as a source of strength and encouragement for parents.
Breastfeeding Hotline. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health offer a breastfeeding help hotline. The hotline is helmed by trained breastfeeding peer counselors and provides support by phone. The phone number is 800-994-9662 (TDD 888-220-5446). The hotline is open Monday-Friday 9am-6pm. You can call after hours and leave a message. A breastfeeding peer counselor will return your call on the next business day.
Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine is a worldwide organization of physicians dedicated to the promotion, protection, and support of breastfeeding and human lactation. Its mission is to unite into one association members of the various medial specialities with this common purpose.
Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative USA Non-profit organization implementing the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative in the USA.
Black Breastfeeding Week. Black Breastfeeding Week was created because for over 40 years there has been a gaping racial disparity in breastfeeding rates. The most recent CDC data show that 75% of white women have ever breastfed versus 58.9% of black women. The fact that racial disparity in initiation and even bigger one for duration has lingered for so long is reason enough to take 7 days to focus on the issue, but here are a few more.
Black Mothers Breastfeeding Association. BMBFA is a non-profit organization. Our mission is to reduce racial inequities in breastfeeding support for African Americans by building foundational networks of support, and strengthening systems to overcome historical, societal and social barriers to breastfeeding success.
College Campus Breastfeeding Policy Toolkit. A Model Policy providing best practices on pregnancy and parenting accommodations, leave, and non-discrimination, in compliance with Title IX and other federal law. The text can be adapted as a memo or included in your institution’s existing policy.
Human Milk Banking Association of North America. Human milk is a precious resource. Even with milk banks, the availability of donor milk is very limited. Sometimes, a mother chooses not to breastfeed, or for whatever reason is unable to breastfeed. Some babies MUST receive human milk in order to survive. In these cases, doctors will prescribe human milk for the child. In a perfect world, all babies would receive breastmilk, either from their mother or from a donor, and the artificial milk industry would be very limited. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if “formula” were only available by prescription?
Human Milk 4 Human Babies, HM4HB. HM4HB is a global milksharing network, a virtual village, comprising thousands of people from over fifty countries. We are mothers, fathers, adoptive families, grandparents, childbirth and breastfeeding professionals, volunteers, supporters, donors, and recipients that have come together to support the simple idea that all babies and children have the right to receive human milk. We use social media as a platform for local families to make real-life connections and come together as sustainable milksharing communities where women graciously share their breastmilk. HM4HB is built on the principle of informed choice: we trust, honour, and value the autonomy of families and we assert they are capable of weighing the benefits and risks of milksharing in order to make choices that are best for them.
La Leche League. Our Mission is to help mothers worldwide to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education, and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and mother.
Racial Equity Learning Community. The United States Breastfeeding Committee has been funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to host this community as part of an inclusive learning and transformation process for the “First Food” field. The community will build the capacity of the breastfeeding field to apply both an “equity lens” to inform and guide our external strategies and activities, but also an “equity mirror” to examine our internal structures, culture, and policies. The LC will include:
You must log into the USBC website to use the learning forum, but you can access the webinars here.
Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere, ROSE. An organization dedicated to addressing the breastfeeding disparity among people of color nationwide through education programs, advocacy and other efforts. The organization’s pioneering work was recently rewarded with a more than $1 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
United States Breastfeeding Committee. USBC is an independent nonprofit coalition of more than 50 nationally influential professional, educational, and governmental organizations that share a common mission to drive collaborative efforts for policy and practices that create a landscape of breastfeeding support across the United States.
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