Articles like this one break my heart. In it, Nicholas Kristof writes about how few babies in developing countries are exclusively breast-fed for the first six months—9 percent of babies in Niger, 7 percent in Burkina Faso, and 3 percent in Mauritania. He writes, "The biggest problem is that many mothers believe that breast milk isn't enough, and that, on a hot day, a child needs water as well." That, and mothers often delay nursing because they don't realize that colostrum is liquid gold for a newborn.
Of course, to drink water in an undeveloped country can be, and is, the kiss of death for many babies.
I was surprised to read, also, that only 13% of babies in the U.S. are breast-fed for the first six months. I would have thought it would be more. To me, it just doesn't make sense that so many moms—moms who are able to breast-feed—either switch to formula after the first few weeks or months, or else choose never to breast-feed at all. Why? Why?
Speaking of whys, Kristof writes that we're not sure why breast-feeding is not more common in developing countries. He writes:
"It’s not clear why a human instinct to nurse went awry. Does it have something to do with the sexualization of breasts? Or with infant formula manufacturers, who irresponsibly peddled their products in the past but are more restrained now? Or is it just that moms worry that their babies need water on hot days? Nobody really knows."
I imagine it's a mix of those three reasons, along with who knows how many more.
Whatever the case, it's heart-breaking that babies are getting sick and dying when such things could be so easily prevented.
On a more personal note, Miss Anne and I are no longer breastfeeding. She made it to 18 months and was nursing for only two or three minutes at night when we finally stopped. Yes, I miss it. Does she? I don't know. I'm sure she does, but she hasn't said much. Yesterday, for the first time in over a week, she softly said, "Ba-ba" (which means, "Give me some milk, please Mommy"), but when I said, "No more ba-ba," she wriggled out of my lap and went to play happily with her puzzles. It was one of several bittersweet moments I've had in the last few weeks as our nursing sessions became shorter and further apart.
Hopefully mothers across the globe will become more educated, and the rate of breast-fed babies will increase in the future. Not only is it healthier for the baby, but it builds a wonderful early bond between the baby and her mom.