Sometimes I get the impression that people think breastfeeding is like a rare orchid that can only bloom under the most precise conditions. Like in order to successfully breastfeed you have to be a middle-class white woman who doesn’t work outside the home with a full-term, singleton pregnancy and uncomplicated natural birth of a baby who has no problems.
This is, in fact, false. Breastfeeding is like a dandelion. It’s misunderstood but actually incredibly useful and it’s everywhere. (Dandelions are edible, the greens are highly nutritious and you can even make a tea from the roots.)
From Inuit to Australian Aboriginal, mothers all over the world
have been breastfeeding their babies for millennia. Aristocrats, nomads, farmers, and hunter-gatherer mothers have all breastfed their babies.
Throughout history, women breastfed their babies under all kinds of circumstances. If you look at the background of this painting of Mormon handcart pioneers, you can see a mother nursing her infant.
Breastfeeding has saved the lives of babies in some of the most dire circumstances like a few of the babies who were born in Auschwitz. Barbara Puc‘s mother was unable to breastfeed her after being sick and malnourished, but another woman at Auschwitz who had just lost a baby was lactating and nursed the little baby girl- saving the baby’s life in a place where infant formula was an impossibility.
Women have been breastfeeding twins, siblings and even premature babies all before formula was widely available.
From a biological perspective, it’s actually abnormal for only 22.3% of babies to be exclusively breastfed for six months. But because it’s so rare for a baby to be breastfed according to biological norms, it gives the illusion that breastfeeding is like that rare orchid that blooms only in a climate-controlled greenhouse. Don’t be fooled. Breastfeeding is like those hearty dandelions that are edible and nutritious and can be extraordinarily prolific.