Breastfeeding

Kids would be healthier if more mothers breastfed them. What do you think?

Here are 3 Things I’ve Read Recently on the topic:

1. If 90 percent of American women breastfed their babies for six months, the lives of 900 babies could be saved every year.1
2. The United States could save $13 billion a year if nine out of 10 American women breastfed their babies for the first six months of the child’s life.2
3. Breast milk contains antibodies that protect infants from childhood illnesses.3

My Take on It:

It’s easy to advocate for breastfeeding—until you try it and discover that it isn’t so easy. My pediatrician urged me to breastfeed both of my kids for a year, but by the end of the first six months, I was exhausted. Why? Because our society expects so much of parents of newborns. Those who work often can’t afford to take the first six months off, and many workplaces aren’t equipped (or make it hard) for moms of newborns. (I remember, with great embarrassment, attempting to talk to my bosses about this issue, which made me realize that a lot of moms wouldn’t even dare broach the subject.)

Even my friends who were stay-at-home moms found the transition to becoming a new parent overwhelming and that the list of “good ways to raise your infant” was a bit daunting. So some breastfed while others didn’t. When I was visiting Sweden, I was impressed with the cultural norm of most women breastfeeding their children. (But Sweden also has generous, paid, family-leave policies.) I wish more American moms breastfed their infants, but I think our society needs to change to make it easier to do so.

Talk Further

Ask your partner or close friend: “what keeps mothers of newborns from breastfeeding?”

Explore Further

  • Find out more about raising infants well in our Ages 0-2. section.
  • Read more about the importance of breastfeeding from the American Academy of Pediatrics’ page on breastfeeding.

What would it make it easier for more American moms of newborns to breastfeed their kids? Share your suggestions below.

Footnotes

1-3. Melissa Bartick and Arnold Reinhold, “The Burden of Suboptimal Breastfeeding in the United States: A Pediatric Cost Analysis,” Pediatrics 125 no. 5, April 5, 2010.

“It’s easy to advocate for breastfeeding—until you try it and discover that it isn’t so easy.” This sentence could not hold any more truth to it. I was lucky enough to be able to stay home with my son for a year after I had him, but I can’t imagine the difficulties that so many mothers have that weren’t as fortunate as I was. There are so many benefits to breastfeeding your child, but for many mothers, it is very difficult to do. I’ve also read that breastfeeding can also reduce the risk of breast cancer. I think that with so many positives to breast feeding, it can be awfully disappointing when it doesn’t go the way you hope it would have.

-Janet

4

Support without judgment is what’s needed. As a woman who finally gave up the ghost after 7 months of breastfeeding (6 of them while working either part-time or full-time), I felt like most of the sources who supported my breastfeeding were those who implied I would be a failure if I didn’t do it (online advice sites and forums). I met a woman who was actually a lactation consultant among other things, and she was disgusted with the pressure she felt from other medical pros when her own milk failed to come in at all and she gave up after a few weeks.

My workplace, though polite about it (until the very end when they sent the facilities manager to brusquely inform me that they were taking my pumping office away and not giving me any other place to do it), kept questioning me every month or so, and moving me from office to office, so I began to get the distinct impression that my need for 15 minutes of privacy next to an electrical outlet twice a day was really cramping their style.

It’s like a lot of other workplace-respect issues. You weigh the desire to do something about it, to make the environment better for the next poor sap who tries to do what you did, against the desire to not make waves, create enemies or be seen as a pain in the ass.

In the end I discussed it with my boss, who was much more sympathetic than others had been. They found me a new station, but it was too late for me, because I’d already been struggling and that incident with the stone-faced facilities lady pushed me over the edge, into giving up on nursing entirely. I asked how I could lodge some sort of complaint anyway about how it had been handled, and my boss said he’d bring it up as a general thing (that he’d heard from some of the moms that it would be great to know they had one place they could go to for pumping). Not exactly the outraged demonstration I’d initially wanted to do, but hopefully it will do a bit of good without totally disrupting my position in the company (at a time when I’m trying to stump for a raise and/or promotion).

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