SLOGAN #2: “Really, We’re Just Mammals!”

Back in March, I wrote a blog where I introduced the first in a series of slogans that I said I would continue in my individual posts. These are all things I’d like to put on a t-shirt or bumper sticker. WMM?’s blog has been busy these last five months (check out all the other great entries!) I’m back with my next slogan:

“Really, We’re Just Mammals!”

I am just as self-reflexive (some of my friends would say, moreso) as the next human. Truly though, I think that’s the thing that gets us into trouble sometimes as a species. When an elephant, or a dog, or a cow (etc.) has a baby she doesn’t make a decision about whether or not to nurse her baby. The baby gets up on four legs and finds its food source. I understand that sometimes something so “natural” can feel unnatural to us human mamas, and I did experience major difficulties the second time around nursing my son. Still, sometimes we have such a hard time getting out of our heads, that we forget to tap into our basic body functions, abilities, and needs. Yes, really, we’re just mammals.

When I say “just” I’m not NOT marveling at our ability to give birth and breastfeed, I’m just saying… look at all the other species of mammals and remember that we’re not that different from them. We can do the same things they do. We’re named for it. Not to state the obvous, but “mammary”: “mammals”… Get the connection? I must have had a terrible biology teacher, but believe it or not, I didn’t get the connection until I was an adult.

I can’t help but think about a Mister Roger’s Neighborhood episode about mammals and eating in which pigs, cows, and yes, even humans appear nursing their young. There is a even a close-up shot of a human nipple dripping milk while the baby gets attached. I’ve heard the episode is televised every year around Thanksgiving, and though I’ve seen it before on the internet, I’ve only found numerous broken links to the video (apparently copyright infringement.) Still, here is a little clip from someone’s home made video.

Thanks Mr. Rogers, for normalizing breastfeeding and putting it in its proper context. You know, “Really, We’re Just Mammals.”

Now for the public health policy portion that backs my slogan.  The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) has a series of recommendations about maternity practice that protect, promote, and support breastfeeding.  Having a midwife as your maternity provider increases your chances of successfully breastfeeding your baby. Midwives have lower rates of intervention including epidural use and c-section, and these interventions are associated with interfering with breastfeeding success. Midwives help to insure that mothers and babies stay together after birth, which allows for skin to skin contact, interaction, and allows the normal process of attachment between mother and infant to occur. Breastfeeding allows mother and baby to mutually regulate each other. 

Breastfeeding immediately after birth confers a number of benefits. It allows the mother to expel her placenta faster, and provides numerous other benefits to mother and baby. These are so numerous, that I’ll write about them in another entry. What other substance do we know that provides everything a baby needs, wards off infection, coats the stomach protectively, and helps to “organize” a baby’s hormones, senses, and feelings?

 A woman’s body is capable of sustaining a human life for at least six months on breast milk alone. U.S. health organizations such as The American Academy of Pediatrics recommend exclusive breastfeeding for six months, and thereafter for at least one year. The World Health Organization recommends at least two years. 

If you ever needed confirmation that we were actually mammals, check out this amazing videos about the breast crawl. Our babies are capable of self-attachment just like other mammals.

By the way, check out the Port City Breastfeeding Project on Facebook. They’re introducing great initiatives to promote breastfeeding in our local hospital.

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