Kimberly Seals Allers asks: “Is Breastfeeding Really Sustainable?”

August 5, 2017

Shared from Kimberly Seals Allers’ list serv, August 2, 2017

Happy World Breastfeeding Week!

This year’s theme is Sustaining Breastfeeding Together. By definition, sustainability means “the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level,” or the “the capacity to endure.” But can breastfeeding endure? And I don’t mean the biological process of lactation, I mean breastfeeding as the intimate bonding and nurturing experience between mother and child. Does it have the capacity to endure as women continue to face complex structural, cultural and societal barriers?

And what about the areas of breastfeeding that should never be sustained–such as the ongoing racial disparities in breastfeeding rates. The CDC’s latest data, released yesterday, show that over 14 states have a racial disparity in initiation rates of greater than 15 percentage points. Please, let’s not sustain that! 

Ultimately sustainability is a complex balancing act, a dynamic process of maintaining the good (like the improvement in overall initiation rates) and continuing to aggressively and intentionally eradicate the bad.  Ultimately, in order for breastfeeding to be sustained,  it must be transformed — on a policy, cultural, community and individual level. Only with radical transformation can we achieve a breastfeeding experience for all that is truly worth sustaining.

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