Today’s blog is about how breastfeeding contributes to food security.
Some of you may have heard that the Cree Nation Government adopted the Framework for Action to Improve Access to Nutritious Food in Eeyou Istchee. On Tuesday, January 24th, of this year, Dr. Darlene Kitty and Bella Petawabano gave a presentation on Access to Nutritious Food in Eeyou Istchee at the Cree Nation Government Council Board meeting. Their presentation was broadcast live on regional radio and livestream. Links to the broadcast are included at the end of this post.
This is a call to action for all communities. Breastfeeding plays a key role in ensuring that the youngest members of the community have food security. Breastmilk is baby’s first food.
According to the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action :
Food security means having enough food to maintain a healthy and productive life today–and in the future. Communities enjoy food security when all individuals in all households have access to food–adequate in quantity and quality, affordable, acceptable, appropriate and readily available from local sources on a continuing basis.1
If we look at this closely, we see that breastfeeding fulfills all the requirements.
Having enough food to maintain a healthy and productive life today:
Breastfeeding contains all the essential nutrients to support the development of the baby for the first six months of life. Not only that but it contains immune factors that protect the baby against common illnesses and chronic diseases, giving the baby protection throughout his lifespan.
Adequate in quantity & quality :
With support and information most women can produce plenty of milk for their baby. Some women provide enough for twins or more! Human milk is a high quality food even when the mother’s diet is less than ideal.
Breastfeeding costs very little while artificial infant milk (formula) can represent a significant portion of a family’s income. Breastfeeding allows the family to use more resources for nutritious foods for the whole family. Feeding the mother also feeds the baby.
Breastfeeding is part of Cree culture and an important contribution to Myuupmasitsiun.
“Our children were always told to breast feed their children even when milk became available at the store. “When God gave you a baby,” my father used to tell them, “He also gave you the equipment to feed that baby, so use what God gave you.” And they followed his teachings.” (Mary George: Whapmagostui: 2012)
Readily available from local sources on a continuing basis.
The baby’s own mother is the most local of sources. As long as the baby demands, more milk will be produced. Recommendations are to continue breastfeeding for two years or more, after the introduction of complimentary foods at around six months. “Cree Elders recommend that women breastfeed their babies as long as they can! They say that breastfeeding is Love.”2
A few more thoughts on food security and breastfeeding:
As well as security for the baby, breastfeeding contributes to a mother’s food security by lowering her risk of nutritionally demanding diseases, such as osteoporosis and anemia.
Communities benefit when everybody experiences food security. When a community is well fed, resources can be used for needs other than food. Community programs to reduce hunger and provide access to nutritious foods won’t need to use their funds on artificial infant milk (formula) when babies enrolled in the program are breastfed.
It is important to remember that breastfeeding is more than just a way to get nutritious and disease-fighting food into the baby. A breastfed baby enjoys not only food security, but also a wonderful feeling of security through that feeding. Babies thrive on human touch, and feeding the food nature intended also provides the skin-to-skin contact so necessary to the psychological development of a young baby.
It is up to all of us to make sure that the youngest members of our community receive the truest security.
Access to Nutritious Food in Eeyou Istchee information page
Cree Nation Government Livestream page
James Bay Cree Communications Society (JBCCS) streaming radio
Activity Sheet 10: Breastfeeding and Food Security. Retrieved February 1, 2017, from http://www.waba.org.my/resources/activitysheet/acsh10.htm
Gauthier, Dany. Breastfeeding Index Cards. Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay 2013. Retrieved February 2, 2017, from http://www.creehealth.org/sites/default/files/Index%20cards_V9%2814mars%29FINAL.pdf