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More Support For Nursing Moms, Less "Breast Is Best" Lip Service

By Sierra Black |

A breastfeeding support poster from 1937

Do we really need more support for breastfeeding? The “Breast Is Best” slogan has thoroughly permeated our culture. Moms who use formula report feeling pressured and guilt-tripped for their choices. Women whose babies can’t nurse often go to extreme lengths to provide breastmilk via exclusive pumping and donated milk. We’ve been inundated with the message that the best food for babies is the stuff our bodies make for them.

Yet breastfeeding rates are still well below what they should be. Clearly, something is missing from all this “support” for nursing mothers.

It’d be great if every child had a year of breastfeeding to get the best nutritional start in life, not to mention the advantages to mother and child of bonding through nursing.  As it is, only 81 percent of new moms initiate breastfeeding, and only 34 percent are still doing it at one year.

As K.J. Dell Antonia says over at Slate today, it’s not moms who need to get the memo. We’ve heard that breastfeeding is best, and most of us want to try it.

What needs to happen is more real support for nursing moms. Not inspirational posters, but more support from hospitals, employers and health care providers. Slate’s piece was prompted by the news that the CDC is is looking to boost the rate of “baby-friendly hospitals”. Here’s what the CDC sees wrong with hospitals:

Among other practices the CDC deems not “baby-friendly,” many hospitals routinely give formula to breastfeeding babies. They don’t encourage “rooming-in” (mothers and babies remaining in a room together 24 hours a day), don’t help women initiate breastfeeding within an hour after birth, and fail to encourage nursing on demand or to teach mothers who are, of necessity, separated from their babies to breastfeed and maintain lactation. Some of those hospitals may even “push” nursing through posters and awareness campaigns. But they don’t actually do much to help women get there.

You’re only in the hospital with your baby for a short time, though. What happens once you leave matters at least as much. To really support breastfeeding, we would need to adopt sensitive, fair family leave policies like most of the developed world. We’d need to guarantee women who return to work access to safe, clean, private places to pump and time to do so. The new Affordable Care Act requiring insurance coverage for breast pumps is a great start, but we need some serious, big policy changes in this country is we’re going to genuinely support breastfeeding for new mothers and infants.

What kind of support would you like to see for nursing mothers?

Photo: trialsanderrors

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About Sierra Black

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Sierra Black

Sierra Black lives, writes and raises her kids in the Boston area. She loves irreverence, hates housework and wants to be a writer and mom when she grows up. Read bio and latest posts → Read Sierra's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “More Support For Nursing Moms, Less "Breast Is Best" Lip Service

  1. Meagan says:

    I think all the breast is best bs is actually harmful… not just to formula moms who suffer the guilt, but to breast feeding moms who take it way too seriously. At least in my case, I can say that having supplimented with formula only once, after supplimenting I immedietly realized that doing so HELPED my breast feeding ability, not hurt it. It allowed me to get a decent night’s sleep when I desperately needed it anallowed me to relax a little bit about my hungry baby when he wanted more milk than I was able to give him at that immediate moment. I’d been so afraid that supplimenting would negatively impact my supply that I was needlessly stressing out, and made failure more likely. Meanwhile, my supply was uneffected and I haven’t needed to suppliment since, but I feel better knowing it’s an option when or if I need it again.

  2. Rosana says:

    You are right, more support is needed and not the one in the form of posters. We also do not need people applauding a every time we breastfeed our baby baby in public. Less people staring at me (when I am trying to breastfeed) or giving me unsolicited advice, it is enough support for me. However, if suddenly a new mom, that wants to breastfeed her newborn, finds herself in a hospital that does not support breastfeeding and will not have a lactation consultant to help, she has only herself to blame. It is her responsibility to do the research and make sure that she is going to have the resources available to give breastfeeding a good start. Tour the hospital or birth center and ask if they have lactation consultant on staff. If they don’t then you might have to switch hospitals. If that is not an option, make sure you call La Leche League to see if they can send somebody to help you at the hospital or at soon as you get home with your baby.

  3. LG says:

    I am in complete agreement with Meagan as I had almost the exact same experience. The unbelievable guilt at giving that one bottle a day….esp since my husband worked nights and was up anyways at 4 Am for the feeding. But it was such a lifesaver for me…too bad it took me months to enjoy it. Ironically, all my friends who breast fed exclusively were done by 7 months. I continued to a year…even though at that point it was definitely only 1 or 2x a day.

  4. Caitie says:

    I would like to see the kind of support that shows breastfeeding mothers that while doing an amazing thing for their child they by no means have to a right to treat formula feeding moms like second class citizens. My milk never came in with my son. I had no choice but to formula feed but still suffered so much guilt because my son was drinking from a bottle and not from my boob.

  5. Naty says:

    We need to teach the public in general not just the mother; be able to breastfeed un public and more support after a lactating woman leaves the hospital.
    Breastfeeding is very hard at the beginning and when people do not support you it could be even harder.

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