Even Olympians Fight to Overcome Breastfeeding Obstacles

“I’ve always wanted to be a mom, and I’ve also wanted to become an Olympian and compete at the highest level of our sport. I never thought I was going to be at the Olympics as a new mom.” – U.S. Olympic marathoner Aliphine Tuliamuk

Only 1 in 562,400 people make it to the Olympic games. Without question, even getting to the Olympics means you are a champion.

While all of us at 1,000 Days are excited to watch this year’s games, we are especially keeping an eye on one Olympian, American marathoner Aliphine Tuliamuk who has already blazed a new trail heading into these unique Olympic Games. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions would have separated her from baby daughter, Zoe, who is still breastfeeding. So Tuliamuk petitioned the Organizing Committee and now is cleared to bring baby Zoe to Tokyo so mom and baby can continue breastfeeding.

This is exciting on many fronts. First the basics: breastfeeding gives babies the very best start to life, and the benefits reach far into the future. Breastfeeding promotes healthy cognitive and social-emotional development. It also saves lives by helping to protect babies from infections, conditions such as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and diseases like diarrhea and pneumonia. And breastfeeding also has powerful health benefits for moms and birthing people. It helps women’s bodies recover from childbirth and decreases the risk of postpartum bleeding. It also reduces a woman’s risk of heart disease, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes and depression.

Second, this again shines a light on how difficult it is to be a breastfeeding person! Successful breastfeeding relies on parents having enough time, energy and capacity – but people in every corner of the world face too many barriers to start and continue breastfeeding. No one breastfeeds alone. It takes support from everyone – from parents to policymakers, health facilities, communities and employers. No one is immune from these obstacles – even an Olympian like Tuliamuk has to fight to continue her breastfeeding journey.

“I want to make sure my daughter understands that this world is not easy but that does not mean that you give up. It means that you double down and you work very, very hard and you seize every opportunity that you get. That’s how you achieve your goals,” Tuliamuk said in an interview with Good Morning America.

At 1,000 Days, an Initiative of FHI Solutions, we lead the fight to build a strong foundation for mothers and pregnant people, children, and future generations to thrive. Our mission is to make the well-being of women and children in the first 1,000 days a policy and funding priority, both in the United States and around the world. We encourage you to join us by participating in August Breastfeeding Month and World Breastfeeding Week. Everyone is welcome to participate in the August 2021 #BreastfeedingIs Campaign to lift your voice to build a landscape of breastfeeding support.