Our new book is here! Breastfeeding: New Anthropological Approaches is an edited volume featuring contributions by anthropologists working across the sub-fields. This book seeks to produce transformative knowledge and novel conversations about human lactation, breastfeeding, and human milk.
A video from the Infant Feeding Support for Refugee Children group.
#SafelyFed Refugee children in #Idomeni are in crisis. Learn how you can give donations of money to ensure that all infants – breastfed and non-breastfed – receive skilled support for safe nutrition in emergencies.
Infants and young children under 2 are especially vulnerable to illness, malnutrition, and death during humanitarian crises. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in emergency situations artificial feeding increases the risk of death by diarrhoeal by 1300% as compared to breastfed infants. A baby may die within days of the onset of diarrhoeal disease. The younger the baby, the greater the risks of artificial feeding.
In this emergency, the transit context introduces serious challenges to safer formula feeding. Mass donations of powder formula, bottles, and teats increases the risks of infant death by diarrhea and malnutrition. This is because where refugee families are throughout Greece, they do not have access to the potable water, sanitation, or the supplies needed to properly prepare formula or scrub and sterilize bottles and teats.
UNICEF, WHO, WFP, International Medical Corps, and Save the Children have called for breastfeeding support and outline conditions for use of breast milk substitutes: http://www.unicef.org/media/media_57962.html
When artificial feeding is required, ready-to-feed (UHT) formula is recommended for infants less than 6 months. Non-breastfed infants more than 6 months and toddlers may have UHT milk or yogurt, along with healthy, age-appropriate complementary foods. Cup feeding is more hygienic than bottle feeding.
Breastfed infants should be exclusively breastfed for 6 months, and then breastfeeding should continue for as long as possible, up to two years and beyond. After 6 months breastfed infants may receive healthy, age-appropriate complementary foods. Relactation is possible for mothers who have stopped breastfeeding and wish to begin again. Cross-nursing (“wet nursing”) is recommended before offering breastmilk substitutes in emergencies. Formula should be used a last resort when all other options have been ruled out.
GIVE MONEY, NOT FORMULA OR BOTTLES to organizations providing infant and young child feeding aid. Donations of money allow them to purchase exactly the supplies needed, when needed, to deliver infant feeding support that does not put infants at further risk.
These recommendations have been translated into easy-to-use documents for aid workers and families: http://safelyfed.org/resources/
Re-blogging this post on the importance of infant feeding support in emergencies , by Brooke Bauer of Nurture Project International.
In this post, Dr. Vera Dimitrievska reports on the status of infant and young child feeding among refugee families in transit along the Balkan Route. In November, 2015, UNICEF reported that 52% of those crossing the borders in the Balkans were women and children. With a lack of access of basic health services and a shortage of translators who speak their native language on this route, many mothers with babies also do not have access to information regarding recommended breastfeeding and safe infant and young child feeding in emergencies practices.
When did we start talking about breastfeeding as if it was akin to playing a full contact sport? (Like when a feed at the breast is called a “bout.”) And, why are some lactation technologies referred to as body armor? You know, nipple shields, breast shells, and breast pumps called the DEFENDER. Are we talking about going into battle here or nursing a baby? How did the lactating breast become a combat zone between mothers and their babies?
Earlier this year I had the opportunity to speak at the Breastfeeding and Feminism International Conference in Chapel Hill, NC. The conference is devoted to highlighting breastfeeding-related research, practice, advocacy, and policy. The meeting theme for 2015 was “Breastfeeding, Social Justice, and Equity: Reflecting, Reclaiming, and Re-visioning,” in celebration of the meeting’s tenth anniversary. I presented my research on maternal-child health disparities in Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations in Hawai’i. What follows are some highlights from this presentation.
From where I’m standing, the regulation of anonymous online milk sales is a red herring. Our efforts and resources should be poured into making breastfeeding an attainable reality for all mothers, not just the privileged few. Critically ill infants need human milk to survive and thrive, but all infants in need should have access to human milk. If regulation or policy can help to level the playing field so that increased breastfeeding and access to safe donor milk may become a reality, then that’s a conversation worth having. But, I would rather get busy tearing down barriers that stand in the way of mothers breastfeeding their own babies and figuring out ways of delivering breast milk from healthy donors, wherever and whenever it is needed.
Understanding demedicalization as acts of resistance is also important in refocusing attention on the ways individuals exercise agency and seek empowerment despite hegemonic influences; a focus on demedicalization leads to an understanding of the everyday practices of resistance to medicalization. This analysis is on the ways in which milk sharing is enacted to demedicalize women’s bodies, the fluids they produce, and the babies they nourish.
It was hard to imagine leaving my baby for a month, and I nearly cancelled the plans for fieldwork entirely when I was feeling particularly worried about how my son, my milk supply, and my heroic stay-at-home Dad was going to handle this absence.
Providing mothers with a supportive workplace, safe and sanitary places to pump, and time to practice this small, but significant, act of caregiving while they are at work, just doesn’t seem like too much to ask.
Dr. King’s legacy continues to shape the fight for health equity within African American communities. What better day than today to reflect on birth justice and breastfeeding?
Milk sharing often grows out of the relationships formed within a community of breastfeeding mothers, and in return, the act of sharing milk strengthens these relationships.
Heather’s story teaches us that milk sharing is not simply about nourishing babies – sometimes it’s about mothers caring for other mothers, too.
My brilliant colleague, Kirstie Doehler, and I analyzed a handful of the survey items and then wrote a paper. It was published online in October 2014 in the journal Social Science & Medicine, and is the first to describe who is milk sharing in the U.S.
Milk sharing has deep social (and some might argue biological) roots. It’s not going to just go away because health authorities caution against it. It is part of our past, our present, and most likely our future. What is happening online is just scratching the surface. Clearly, we need a better understanding of the social context of milk sharing risk and risk reduction strategies people use.
At the AAAs in December, we had a stellar line up of anthropologists who discussed the ways that breastfeeding research adds to our understanding of what it means to be human.