Posted by: Admin | July 3, 2011

The Week-End Post – “Extraordinary” Breastfeeding

Some people question the value of breastfeeding children until they are older. However, research shows that breastmilk keeps its beneficial properties, whatever the age of the child. The longer they are breastfed, the more children profit from  enhanced health outcomes. So why is breastfeeding an older child so taboo? In the Cree territory, I have heard many stories and have witnessed many women talking about having breastfed until their child entered elementary school and even longer. Cree women do this in the privacy of their homes and do not talk freely about it. They are not shy about it: the story belongs to them and is no one else’s concern, so they choose when and with whom they want to share it. The nicest stories I have heard were told during Breastfeeding Week activities each year in November (Breastfeeding Week in Eeyou Itschee cannot be celebrated in October, as in the rest of Canada, because it is Moose Break time). During this week, different activities are organized and mothers meet to talk and share breastfeeding experiences. I first noticed how at ease women are with extended breastfeeding at one such event in Oujé-Bougoumou . One mother was comfortable enough with us to share her experiences of breastfeeding most of her six children until they entered elementary shcool. The World Health Organization recommends that babies be breastfed (with the addition of complementary foods at six months) until they are 2 years old and beyond. By formulating their recommendation in this way, they indicate that the breastfeeding relationship between the mother and child should be continued as long as both are comfortable with it.

In fact, prolonged or extended breastfeeding was part of the Cree culture and, although breastfeeding rates have gone down, many women who breastfeed will do so for a long time! When I arrived in Eeyou Itschee, I did not see any women breastfeed during feasts or in public gatherings. I did not question this for long, as the distances from home are rarely far and, as most Cree women are quite reserved, they prefer to breastfeed in their homes. Never seeing women breastfeeding in public but hearing stories about prolonged breastfeeding made me reflect on the situation with infant feeding in Eeyou Itschee. I have since heard that many women are shy about breastfeeding in large public groups, but most mothers, when in a women-only meeting of some sort, whether it be at Headstart or at the clinic, will breastfeed and talk openly and proudly about it!

Recently there has been a news story of a woman breastfeeding her eight-year-old daughter. Some people found the story offensive, but it is quite interesting to see how openly this mother talks about it and how even the older sister is still interested in the subject after being weaned at five. Breastfeeding is definitely part of their lives! When they are pregnant, these girls will not ask themselves how they choose to feed their infants, or ponder a decision. Breastfeeding will be a simple and natural act passed on from mother to daughters.

Here is the story:

Hope you had a nice Canada Day! Enjoy your holiday. 🙂

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