**This blog post was inspired by the 2014 World Breastfeeding Week**
Every minute, 255 children are borne globally. These children are born into families with varying resources, to different household structures, stratified over a range of socioeconomic backgrounds. Some mothers will be able to materially provide their infant with more while the vast majority will have to make do with what they have. This is the same idea is made further evident when one thinks of mothers and their ability to breastfeed their children.
MALNUTRITION AND ACCESS TO CLEAN WATER
When one in every eight people globally are hungry, it should serve as no shock that 45% of child deaths under the age of five are attributed to poor nutrition and that the mothers of those children make up 60% of that one in eight statistic. These women go on to become mothers and have malnourished children whose health is then dictated by mothers who not only do not have enough to eat; but who do not have access to a diversity of calories, which are crucial for the health of a healthy baby. But, how does breast milk come in?
Some mothers will find themselves unable to even produce breast milk due to poor nutrition and limited access to safe drinking water. But for those who can, they themselves are not producing nutrient rich breast milk for the same reasons listed above for mothers who are unable to even produce breast milk.
12 percent of the global population uses 85 percent of the Earth’s water, with none of that 12 percent living in limited resource economies. So that means that the other 88 percent live in limited resource economies where access to clean water would mean them travelling long distances in order to fetch water that is not necessarily safe or alternatives that they might not be able to afford. However, water and nutrition are half the hurdle when it comes to children accessing healthy breast milk and mothers being able to provide it for them.
Where the knowledge of how and in what way to effective breastfeed ones child is so readily available for one group of mothers, another group is left to rely on knowledge that is steeped in cultural ideas instead of science. A great percentage of mothers in limited resource economies fall into that second category.
They face not having enough milk to feed their babies, to sore and mastitis, which are easily managed with the right processes. But, it all boils down to access. If you are not lactating, that is easily managed by making sure that you breastfeed on time to not feeding the baby any other liquids. However, you would have to know that. If you have sore nipples, the removing the baby from the breast by breaking suction first with your small finger or ensuring that the baby latches on well to the nipple easily manage such a problem. But once again, you would have to know that. Even mastitis is easily managed by increasing a mother’s fluid intake to making sure that she gets enough rest. One again, you would have to know that.
It is really important to make sure that the inequalities that exist in breastfeeding are made known especially when certain schools of thoughts tout breastfeeding as the equalizer in global maternal health. No one can expect breastfeeding to be the equalizer for healthy children when mothers in all corners of the world are living in unequal conditions. The only “equalizer” for good health is education and access to the basic serves that would allow mothers to lead healthy futures so that they can take care of their children.
As the 2014 World Breastfeeding Week comes to an end, let us celebrate the mothers that are feeding the healthy futures of their children by breastfeeding them. However, let us also not forget that their mothers who are unable to do so due to their limited access to things such as nutritious foods, clean water, and education.