By Hannah Schenker
You may have recently seen this ad by singer-turned-campaigner Claire Tchaikowski, about the wonder that is breastmilk on our Facebook page and loved it (like we did!):
You probably already know this, but breastmilk is a wonder product, custom made for the needs of your child as they move through the stages of growth and development. It cannot be replicated.
According to the Infant Nutrition Council:
Breastmilk contains all the nutrients the infant needs for proper growth and development.
These nutrients include:
- Free water
- Proteins – Protein accounts for 75% of the nitrogen-containing compounds and the non-protein nitrogen substances include urea, nucleotides, peptides, free amino acids and DNA.
- Fats – Essential fatty acids and long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids
- Carbohydrates – The principal carbohydrate of human milk is lactose.
- Minerals, vitamins, and trace elements.
Breast milk also contains important non-nutritional components, such as antimicrobial factors, digestive enzymes, hormones and growth factors that are important for passive protection against infections and immune-mediated diseases and modulate immunological development.
Immune-related components and growth factors include:
- Secretory IgA – Predominant immunoglobulin in breast milk
- Bioactive cytokines – Including transforming growth factor-b (TGF-b) 1 and 2 and interleukin-10 (IL-10)]
- Others – leukocytes, oligosaccharides, lysozyme, lactoferrin, adiponectin, interferon-g, epidermal growth factor (EGF) and insulin-like growth factor (IGF)-1.
Breastmilk is still very important beyond the first 6 months. Once solids are introduced breastmilk continues to provide important nutrients and growth factors up to 2 years. The WHO recommends breastmilk continue to be part of the young child’s diet, to 2 years of age and beyond.
Breastmilk is constantly changing, even throughout a single feed. An infant can have varying degrees of appetite and thirst, and so breastmilk can also vary to meet the infant’s individual nutrition and fluid requirements. Breastmilk composition can vary depending on the time of day and also significantly between mothers.
Pretty amazing stuff.
The story of how Claire Tchaikowski came up with the idea to create this “ad” has to do with what many mothers experience when they have their first child: mothers are often given misinformation from the professionals and peers they trust, when it comes to things like breastfeeding your child.
Back in 2008, Claire released her first album after catching the attention of Sony BMG and Universal with her ethereal, multi-layered recording style. But the joys of realising this lifelong dream was short-lived, as she began to see through the industry scene and began to feel pressure to fit into a certain style and sound.
“Slowly,” she told Burst, “I began to realise I was in an industry that was okay with me being 19, but not a lot older than that. Plus, it was more enthusiastic about me being the next Dido, rather than helping me to develop my own voice.”
Eventually Claire and her fiancee left London and moved to rural Somerset where she became pregnant – all of which came as a kind of culture shock.
“I was out in the middle of nowhere, not earning any money, not clocking up any tax or National Insurance and just feeling like I wasn’t on the map,” Claire says. “Then I was getting all these confusing messages from my old life, along the lines of, ‘Get back into your skinny jeans, go back out there and do your thing.’ It felt like people were saying, ‘ditch the baby,’ rather than, ‘I’ll come round, make some tea and cook, and you can put your feet up.'”
Not only that – once her son Elliot was born, she began her breastfeeding journey – something that would spark the beginnings of this project:
“Six months later, he was still going. At one year old, he was still going. Then we get to 16 months, and he’s showing no signs of stopping – and, for my part, neither am I!”
Other parents she knew had already weaned their baby off breastmilk and replaced it with cow’s milk, but Claire knew her family had a tendency to not do so well with dairy, so she continued breastfeeding.
“But at the same time, at the back of my mind, I was thinking: ‘what on Earth is the timeline on this stuff?! What should be the actual cut-off point?’ It was a real puzzle.”
At this point Claire turned to Facebook and started to feel connected to the world again, as she discovered a support group of mothers who continued breastfeeding as long as it was needed – many over the age of 1, 2 and even up to 7 years old. Claire discovered that breastfeeding supply will continue as long as there is demand. She also realised that many mothers had been given incorrect information – even from medical professionals – with regards to breastfeeding and breastmilk.
“This was every day, on pretty much every thread,” she said. “There were three types of comments: ‘I’ve just come back from the GP and he’s told me that my milk’s had no nutritional value since my child turned one’; ‘My mother-in-law is on at me to stop, because she thinks it’s disgusting’, or ‘The health visitor just had a go at me because using human milk past “X” age is gross, and the child will end up really clingy.'”
Mulling all this over and reflecting on all the “advice” given to mothers by well-meaning (but incorrect) family and friends – messages inherited from older generations that had no real basis in factuality – prompted Claire to do something about it. She wanted to share good, correct information with mothers. So she turned to her interest in film-making and began.
First, she created a Facebook page for the project to build up an audience for its launch – drawing on the good people in that support group she was a member of. Then, she teamed up withÂ Dana and Eric Trometer at BurstÂ in 2015 to begin making the film.
Did you realise your breast milk was so incredible? That it is tailor-made for the individual needs of your child, even as they grow into a toddler and beyond? Are you willing to continue nourishing them this way, even in the face of constant pressure not only from family and peers, but even medical health professionals to wean and switch to the milk of another animal?
Feel free to comment below with your breastfeeding stories, questions, worries, joys – we are here to support one another in growing healthy babies.