Please permit me to share with you some fond memories of a trip I took to Peru. My husband was born in Peru, as were all his siblings save one and his mother. His mom inherited a rice and mango ranch in the north and it remains the most remote location I have ever been to. It is quite lovely though, isolated as it is, in a valley with a river running through it and the mountains on either side. Peru is a very poor nation and the little village by Carlota's ranch attests to this. The homes are made of mud with corrugated metal roofs and no plumbing. The village folk use communal outside toilets and wash their clothes in the river. My eldest daughter befriended a local girl and when she came back from visiting her house she remarked how little she owned, maybe two or three outfits, and so when we left she insisted we leave most of her clothes behind for her friend.
During my stay in Peru our group of 11 family members spent most of our days lolling about at the farm. We went for walks in the mountains admiring and yet questioning ‘ancient’ drawings carved into the rocks, lounged on hammocks, played Sapo or soccer with the local village boys who came every day to play and hang out, read, played Scrabble with each other and leisurely prepared and ate our meals together.
But once every 3 days or so we would jump in our two pick up trucks and drive for miles to a small town that was home to a few thousand people. The nearest town to La Pampampa is Tembledera. They have a statue of a breastfeeding mother in the town square with the name ‘Homenaje a la Madre’ which can be translated in English to Tribute to Mother. I found it unusual and lovely and she moved me. It was as though she was there to honour mothers and to encourage them to breastfeed their babies, something you rarely see, especially in theWestern World where for some reason, many find the sight of a a breastfeeding mother as distasteful, even in places where debauchery and boobs-in-your-face reign like Las Vegas.
On another day we ventured a little farther to a quaint town called Chilete. The town square here was stunning, with an abundance of blooming bougainvillaea shrubs trimmed into hearts
and yet another statue of a breastfeeding mother.
I am a huge fan of breastfeeding and breastfed my own 3 children; the first for 9 months until she weaned herself (I wasn’t ready), my second child and only son for two and a half years (even while pregnant with my third child) until said child was born and then I breastfed her for 18 months. I’m sure breastfeeding cannot take all the credit but my children are all adults now and they enjoyed very healthy childhoods. I was shy about breastfeeding in public, partly because I was the first of my friends to have children and breastfeed and it was a new experience for everyone. I think my own brother was the most uncomfortable with it and his unease made the whole thing awkward but I persevered.
Mothers who choose not to breastfeed perplex me. I know one woman who likes to partake in a glass (or bottle) of wine every day who was blatantly honest and said her decision not to breastfeed came from her desire to “start drinking again”. Unfortunately I also know a handful of women who based their decision not to breastfeed on the misguided assumption that their breasts would shrivel up into raisins once they were done and saw it as a pre-emptive step to retaining their figure. These women’s breasts disappeared after pregnancy anyways so their logic was invalid and I have to say, I have nicer breasts now, post breast feeding than I ever had before but I recognize I am one of the lucky ones. I think it’s quite sad that in the United States mothers only receive 6 weeks of maternity leave (unlike here in Canada where we are blessed with 12 months) and understand that such a short period of time makes breastfeeding problematic, especially if the woman experienced pregnancy complications and had to leave work earlier than her due date.
In a country such as Peru though, it seems wise to breastfeed as there is no cost involved and the supply is readily available and always at the right temperature. There is no need to sterilize bottles or heat the milk. I was pleased to discover that breastfeeding is on the upswing in Peru as currently there are more Peruvian mothers breastfeeding than ever according to ChildInfo.org
Viva la pecho!