“I think there should be a worldwide law…that mothers should breastfeed their babies for six months…some people here think they don’t have to breastfeed and I think, ‘Are you going to give chemical food to your child when they are so little?’” These words were quoted from supermodel Gisele Bundchen in a recent article from the UK’s version of Harper’s Bazaar. Even though this statement has been stirring up controversy ever since, does it carry some merit?
The World Health Organization recommends that infants up to six months of age should be fed breast milk exclusively. After six months of age, infants should be breastfed in addition to receiving “adequate and safe complementary foods” to meet their nutritional requirements. WHO emphasizes that breast milk contains antibodies which help protect your baby from common childhood diseases. They also reveal that breastfeeding could improve a child’s survival rate, saying “infants who are not breastfed in the first month of life may be as much as 25 times more likely to die than infants who are exclusively breastfed.” Shocking!
Benefits of Breastfeeding
According to WHO, breastfeeding benefits both the mother and baby. It reduces the risk of your baby contracting acute infections such as meningitis, pneumonia, ear infection, the flu, and diarrhea. Breastfeeding also protects your baby against chronic ailments like diabetes, allergies and Crohn’s disease. In the mother, breastfeeding reduces the risk of postpartum hemorrhage as well as breast and ovarian cancer. Additionally, Giselle’s claims that breastfeeding helped her get back to her post-baby weight are in line with current medical research. Score!
Could There Actually Be a Law Enforcing Breastfeeding?
A law requiring mothers to breastfeed, as Gisele suggested, is not likely. There are strict regulations about breast milk substitutes in the U.S. for mothers who are unable to breastfeed exclusively or decide not to, and many doctors would promote such substitutes and formulas. While Gisele’s statement caused quite a furor, it’s actually a good thing because it may encourage more women worldwide to research all the facts about breastfeeding before they make their final decision – because, ultimately, it is a mother’s individual choice whether or not to breastfeed her baby.
It’s Okay If You Can’t
While the benefits of breastfeeding are well-known, there are many mothers who struggle and for many reasons cannot breastfeed. These women feel tremendous pressure from all angles if they give their children formula. Just remember that you may not know the whole story before judging someone who is not breastfeeding.