Breastfeeding as an Olympic Sport
Breastfeeding is one of the things nature gave women all over the world the ability to do. To nurture their child and provide sustenance from their body is an incredible gift. Speaking about breastfeeding trends across the world, Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director is quoted saying: “Breastfed is best fed, whether the baby is born in Uganda, England, China or Canada.”
To make breastfeeding a more common practice, issues need to be brought to the world’s stage just like the Olympics. However, unlike athletes, breastfeeding mothers don’t get the chance to train for their event before the big day arrives. It’s not really something you can practice, how can you learn to latch on when you don’t have a baby?
Nearly every woman has a different feeding journey and many can be compared to Olympic sporting events. Take for example, Laura Cornwell from Southampton, mum to a little boy and expecting again in February. She said: “To start with it was like archery, baby aims for the bull’s eye and if they getit wrong – ouch! When you take in to account other factors like conflicting advice and your own personal battles over feeding in public, I can only liken that to wind speed putting you off your goal. But when you do get it right and your baby hits the target with all the precision of an Olympic athlete, there’s no better feeling, it’s like winning your own gold medal.”
Catherine Davis, former international cross country runner added: “You start off with so much enthusiasm and zest, but it soon becomes apparent you are going to face uphill struggles, hurdles in the way, you learn to put on a brave face in front of others and question when you will see light at the end of the tunnel.
“But before you know it the crowds have encouraged you, each stride becomes easier and you can feel and see the physical and mental benefits. And when it all comes into place and you cross the line you never thought you would get too, the feeling is over whelming and euphoric!”
The key to success for any sporting athlete surely lies with the unsung heroes, the coaches. Who wait quietly behind the scenes, but are always there for moral support and guidance. The same can be said for breastfeeding.
Midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, Jayne Threlfall runs a support group called Bosom Pals. She said: “As a coach my job is to ensure my team is well prepared mentally and physically for the main event. To be successful, athletes need a good mental attitude and people around them telling them they can do it. I have a great team supporting me and their help is invaluable. I have also trained nine peer supporters this year who help to keep my athletes in tip top condition.
“One of the most important things for me is to get breastfeeding off to a good start, just as athletes need to be ready on the starting blocks. I encourage all my mums to have skin to skin contact, which should not be interrupted for at least an hour or until baby has fed well. The coach needs to be there through the good and the bad times and we encourage all our mums to attend Bosom Pals, where they can receive peer support and more intense training from a coach.”
At any sporting event you will have the fans, dedicated to cheering you on come rain or shine. Emma Rundle, a breastfeeding mum said: “I started off feeling like I was doing the hurdles with so many ups and downs. There was then an element of the relay after that except our baton was a bottle of water and the remote control. I actually think I ended up running the Marathon and I hope to have put in place the building blocks to make my little person as strong as any future Olympian.”
Then you have the rising stars, those in the wings waiting patiently to take their turn. If breastfeeding is going to increase it has to become ‘cool’ for the next generation. Just like the Olympic campaign slogan, we need to inspire a generation. Promoting celebrities who are breastfeeding is just one way of persuading younger mums that breastfeeding is the way forward and if it’s good enough for celebrities, then its good enough for us mere mortals.
Athletes just like babies need the best diet to help them grow and perform. Although breastfeeding is not for every mother, breast milk is seen as the ultimate source of nutrition for a baby. An interesting fact I discovered recently is that baby elephants at the DaphneSheldrick Elephant Orphanage in Kenya, are fed SMA Gold. How can milk fit to sustain such a large and powerful animal be the best diet for a small baby? The beauty of breast milk versus formula is that it is tailored to your baby, it is not a generic concoction suitable for all.
With this in mind perhaps breastfeeding should be the official sponsors of the Olympics, after all isn’t that the simplest fast food can get? And what’s more, it’s nutritious!
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