Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Circles of support for mothers

"Support a mother to provide a golden start for her child! With breastfeeding everyone wins!" These statements are themes that are being promoted by WABA for the World Breastfeeding Week 1-7 August [].

Thisafternoon I sat with a circle of women and their children at the Box Hill Birthing and Babies Support (BaBS) group
BaBS groups are sometimes chaotic, with toddlers and little children, babies, and mothers all being who they are.
Today we supported each other in being mothers, and members of families and communities, the way women have since time began. We listened to mothers speaking of their lives, and we grieved with those who spoke of emotional pain and frustration, and the one who shed tears. We talked about maintaining our emotional reserves so that we can cope with the often unpredictable ups and downs in ordinary life. We used butcher paper and drew pictures that recorded our feelings, and some of the children added their squiggles and lines and blotches to complete the picture. We acknowledged that a mother's life is never separate from her children - her life and theirs' are constantly interconnected.

The WABA World Breastfeeding Week program this year is promoting the Global Initiative for Mother Support, and is using the Olympic Games circles to remind us of the need for 'circles of support'. WABA states that:
  • empathetic listening
  • basic, accurate and timely information
  • skilled and practical help
  • encouragement
These four points are the 'circles of support'.

Mothers don't just need circles of support for breastfeeding - they need it for all aspects of normal birthing and nurture. Breastfeeding is an absolutely important aspect of what I would call 'normal' parenting. Not necessarily 'usual' or 'most common' parenting - normal in that this is the physiologically normal, and the most basic way of enabling health and nourishing and nurturing the infant and young child.

The four WABA 'circles of support' apply equally to the promotion and support of normal birthing as they do to breastfeeding. In promoting normal birth, we are establishing the best set of circumstances for the initiation and establishment of a strong breastfeeding bond between mother and baby, and consequently strong emotional bonding. This is true even when the mother experiences complications or illness in her pregnancy or birthing or breastfeeding: the promotion of normal birth within a partnership between a woman and her midwife enables good decision-making, and protects the mother's sense of personal autonomy in her care.

Next month we will hear a lot about the world's best sporting performances. Let's also remember to: "Support a mother to provide a golden start for her child!"

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