By: Ambili Alamery, LCSW
ACS New Parent Support Program, Fort Gordon, GA
On a warm summer evening in July, ten mothers and their infants gathered together with New Parent Support Program staff members and a local photographer, Angel Murphy, who generously donated her time and talent for this event (angelmurphyphotography.com) to celebrate an aspect of their motherhood they cherish. The event was a breastfeeding photo shoot in celebration of Breastfeeding Awareness Week, August 1st thru the 5th.
Over the course of years, I have heard mothers describe their experience with breastfeeding in many ways, from “giving liquid love for my baby” to “very frustrating in the beginning”. The benefits of breastfeeding are plentiful and well established. It is the most complete form of nutrition for infants, has antibodies that help protect the infant from illnesses, has numerous health benefits for the mother, promotes bonding between parents and infants, needs minimal equipment and preparation and is budget friendly for families (http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/).
It must be acknowledged that while breastfeeding is a natural process it is not always easy in the beginning. Parents find breastfeeding is most successful when they have the information and support necessary to prepare prenatally. Involvement and support from fathers, extended family members and the community is also an essential part of success in breastfeeding. A father’s role in providing emotional support to the mother and creating an environment that is breastfeeding friendly should not be underestimated.
As a community, Fort Gordon supports Breastfeeding families in various ways. There are designated lactation spaces for Active Duty and other breastfeeding mothers on base. The Family Outreach Center (Building 33512) is a designated lactation space. Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center (DDEAMC) has Lactations Consultants in the Family Medicine Clinic as well as in the OB clinic for parents who need education and support related to breastfeeding. ACS New Parent Support Program supports breastfeeding by providing the necessary breastfeeding education and support to prenatal as well as post-partum parents through the Newborn Care class, Breastfeeding Support Group and one on one home visit consultations. The CSRA Breastfeeding Coalition (csrabreastfeeding.org) and La leche League (https://lllaugusta.wordpress.com/)are also excellent resources for parents seeking support. While all of these resources are helpful, there still remains an opportunity for us as a community to increase the level of support and to normalize breastfeeding so that all mothers who wish to breastfeed are able to succeed.
The photo shoot facilitated by NPSP was one small way of acknowledging that breastfeeding, whether in public or privately, is a natural act, and is nothing more or less than providing nourishment for our babies. It is not something to be sexualized or stigmatized and mothers who are breastfeeding deserve all of our support and affirmation.