I grew up in the Philippines, several decades ago. As I was growing up, I took it for granted that all mothers breastfed their babies. That was just the norm. The only mothers who didn't breastfeed were those unable to produce enough milk or who were perhaps ill. In the past, this problem was addressed by hiring a wet nurse. My father, who was the 13th child of a woman who bore 14 children in her lifetime, was breastfed by a wet nurse. So was the brother who came after him. Both my father and uncle grew up having a loving relationship with their mother and a strong affection for their wet nurse. Even I have affection and fond memories for their short, plump, happy wet nurse, whom we called Mamay, as she lived with our family until her death.
Later in my life, I moved to the United States and lived there for some time, giving birth to my second child there. Having grown up in a culture where breastfeeding was a given and the most natural of things, I was very surprised to learn that breastfeeding classes were being offered. Initially, I thought, "What's there to learn? Don't all mothers naturally know how to go about it?" I'd so taken for granted all the support I'd been given as a new mother in the Philippines. What surprised me even more was that a great number of women in the United States did not breastfeed their infants. I was a little saddened in knowing this, although I realized that for some there may have been very legitimate reasons preventing them from doing so. But for those who had the option to breastfeed but chose not to, I felt somewhat sorry.
It's been a few decades since, and I'm happy to learn that breastfeeding in the USA is at its most popular level in more than 35 years. The fact that First Lady Michelle Obama is an active advocate of breastfeeding probably accounts for some of the resurgence, as is the support of celebrity breastfeeding moms like Angelina Jolie, Cate Blanchett, Gwyneth Paltrow, Gisele Bundchen, Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stefani, and many others who publicly espouse nursing. It's great that there's all this support now for breastfeeding - government-funded programs, lactation consultants, breastfeeding support groups, etc. There's even a slew of apps for breastfeeding moms!
I confess what excites me even more are the really cool clothes available for breastfeeding moms. They didn't have nearly as much variety in nursing clothes and breastfeeding tops and dresses when I was pregnant. The ones I see now in magazines - I'm shopping for my daughter now, not me - are so fabulously chic and functional at the same time that I was almost tempted to order for myself a top that was meant for breastfeeding.
So I just want to encourage all you nursing mothers. Keep at it, in spite of the occasional challenges and inconveniences. The benefits for yourself and your child are immense. Aside from the gift of life, what could be more gratifying to a mother than to know that you are supplying your child with life-giving sustenance that will firmly set his course in life - not just physical but emotional and spiritual as well.
And when your breastfeeding days are but a far-away memory, the reminiscence of your child nursing at your breast will evoke such tender, poignant emotions that may help sustain you when you, in turn, need sustenance for life.