This week I posted a link to an article that suggested mothers are feeling too much pressure to breastfeed. The author referenced a study in which mothers seemed “stressed” and felt their doctor focused on six months of breastfeeding at the exclusion of the overall health of the family.
We know there are a few moms that are physically unable to breastfeed. That must be a truly frustrating ordeal and I have nothing but respect for mothers in that situation. However, the majority of mothers and babies are physically able to breastfeed. So why are only 14.8% of babies are exclusively breastfed for six months? A few social factors that are associated with shorter duration include smoking during pregnancy (10%), Caesarean birth (32% of births), a baby going to NICU and mom returning to work before 6 months of infant’s age (55%).
The majority of research shows that many moms are also undermined in their goals for a strong milk supply and suitable latching baby by early supplementation, pacifiers and inappropriate birth interventions. The guilt that so many mothers feel about their unsuccessful breastfeeding attempts can make the recommendations of exclusive breastfeeding for six months feel unfair. I understand the frustration, but it should not be directed at the recommendations for exclusive breastfeeding, but the raod blocks that created the difficulties to a fulfilling breastfeeding experience.
Several articles have discussed this study and the suggestion to soften up the 6 month recommendation. The rationale is that if we just took the pressure off mothers they would be happier and more confident in their mothering ability. This theory is based on lowering the bar to make everyone feel like they accomplished something reminds me of giving every kid a trophy so no one feels bad. Except the kid/trophy scenario is a somewhat arbitrary contest, unlike breastfeeding.
With a new baby, life changes forever and completely. One physician observed many families attempt to regain control during the chaotic early months by changing the feeding method in hopes baby sleeps longer and relieves stress on the family. What new parent hasn’t wished for a magic, baby-whisperer trick to get their baby to sleep faster and for hours at a time?
So the choice is framed, family harmony or exclusive breastfeeding. Hmmm- I wonder which will prevail?