Speaking to Mothers of the Future
Sara Dodder Furr
Lincoln NE USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 41 No. 3, June-July 2005, p. 56.
I was given a wonderful opportunity to speak to mothers of the future when I received an invitation to lecture about La Leche League and breastfeeding from a professor at the University of Nebraska, USA at Lincoln (UNL). I spent two hours talking to a group of about 20 female students enrolled in a family and consumer science course. The professor had breastfed her children and attended LLL meetings many years ago and wanted her students to learn about breastfeeding from an expert -- an LLL Leader. She had found my name and contact information on the LLL of Nebraska Web page.
I prefer speaking in a question-and-answer format. In order to generate discussion, I asked the women how many of them had ever seen someone breastfeed. I was amazed when over half of the students responded "yes" because my experience has shown that many new mothers in our community do not breastfeed. I also asked them about the feeding practices of their own mothers. It was encouraging to hear that many of the women had been breastfed as infants.
I talked about how I became interested in the idea of attachment during my own career at UNL over 20 years ago when I was studying and teaching developmental psychology. I told the students how research in attachment relates to the philosophy of LLL, which I shared with them. I also shared our purpose statement with them, as well as the story of how LLL was started by a group of seven average women, all of whom are still living and active in the organization they founded nearly 50 years ago.
One of my favorite parts of the lecture was sharing photos of my three children, Nat, Abby, and Nora, when they were each around four to five months of age. They were quite the roly poly with lots of human-milk fat attached to their bodies! Then I showed "after" photos of them as they are today -- slim, trim, and healthy. I noted that formula-fed children are at greater risk for obesity than are breastfed children and I listed many other diseases related to not breastfeeding. I was proud to say that Nat was almost two years old when he was given his first antibiotic and that both Nat and Abby had perfect attendance during their kindergarten year of school. I also noted that, of course, my children have had illnesses, but I believe their risk of illness has been reduced by breastfeeding.
I talked about how I found that it was possible to combine work and exclusive breastfeeding, noting that the World Health Organization, as well as the US Department of Health and Human Services, is now promoting the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months. I think that many people are surprised to hear that it is possible to sustain a human infant on human milk alone for six months, but I had the photos to prove my children had survived and thrived on my milk.
I enjoyed answering the students' questions, including those related to how long a baby should breastfeed. One student asked about breastfeeding and HIV and I was able to share information on this hot topic. The student had done mission work in an orphanage in Ethiopia where all of the babies were identified as possibly being HIV positive. I told her that research by Anna Coutsoudis of the Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and her associates has shown infants exclusively breastfed for up to six months had less risk of HIV infection than infants that were formula-fed, and that the greatest risk for mother-to-child transmission of HIV appears to be from mixed feeding, as opposed to exclusive breastfeeding or exclusive artificial feeding (Coutsoudis 2001). In response, the student told me about a British woman who adopted an infant during the time the student was in Ethiopia. The adoptive mother was able to breastfeed the baby. This opened up an interesting discussion about adoptive nursing.
Many students picked up the LLL pamphlets and tear-off sheets I offered to them after my talk. It is fun to get out there into the "real world" sometimes and preach to the "choir members" of the future. Other Leaders might consider giving their names and credentials to university faculty members in their areas and offering to speak on topics related to breastfeeding. I have learned that there are many different departments at the universities in this area which have courses related to infancy, childbirth, and nutrition. There are speaking opportunities in each one.
Coutsoudis, A. et al. Method of feeding and transmission of HIV-1 from mothers to children by 15 months
of age: prospective cohort study from Durban, South Africa. AIDS 2001; 15(3):379-87.
Coutsoudis, A. Breastfeeding and risk of HIV transmission, an update. Forum Nutr 2003; 56:162-4.
Coutsoudis, A. Infant feeding dilemmas created by HIV: South African experiences. J Nutr 2005 Apr; 135(4):956-9.
Sara Dodder Furr lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, USA. She has been a member of LLL since 1995 and a Leader since 1999. She leads with the Lincoln Thursday South LLL Group and is the Area Professional Liaison for LLL of Nebraska. She and her husband have three children. Brandel D. Falk is Contributing Editor for this column.