Supporting Breastfeeding in Practice

2017-05-12T01:58:10+00:00May 12th, 2017|Categories: Fertility Blog|Tags: , , , , , |

The health benefits of breastfeeding your baby are widely known. The World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. The immunity boost provided by mother’s milk leads to lower health care costs, fewer parental absences and less antibiotic use.
Given these facts, it’s tough to believe the backlash against public breastfeeding that we see on a seemingly daily basis. As an active member of the community of breastfeeding advocates, I am surprised by the negative reactions many mothers receive when they feed their baby in a restaurant or retail store. Every week there are new reports of mothers being asked to leave public places, cover up or threatened with indecent exposure charges for feeding her baby. As a nurse and mother of 3, I am immune from the shock of seeing any part of the human body unclothed. Although I can sympathize with the people that do not share my profession, I think those who find breastfeeding offensive can simply look away.

Although science supports breastfeeding, we don’t need to look far to find a social stigma against it. As breastfeeding advocates, it is important that we acknowledge this stigma exists, and then empower mothers in their choice to breastfeed.

There are many ways we can support mothers and mothers-to-be in her breastfeeding journey. Here are some ideas for showing your support for a breastfeeding mother.

• Your words are powerful; if you have a friend or family member that is pregnant, assure her that she can be successful.

• Many mothers don’t have exposure to a breastfeeding role model. If you have breastfed, tell other moms about your experience. The good and bad! It’s important to give a realistic view of breastfeeding. If you only share the great parts your listener is going to perceive any struggles as abnormal.

• Research shows mothers that attend a breastfeeding class during their pregnancy are more likely to start breastfeeding and breastfeed longer. Encourage pregnant women in your life to find out about the options for breastfeeding education in their area.

• Be a good listener. Breastfeeding can be tough in the beginning and she may need reassurance that the struggles will pass and breastfeeding gets easier.

• If you see a mother breastfeeding in public, let her know you support her with a smile or kind word. If I see you nursing in public, I will tell you “Nice job mom!”

• Dads are a critical part of the breastfeeding support system. Encourage him to attend a breastfeeding class, learn why breastfeeding is important and ways he can help mom be successful.

• If you can, encourage your husband or significant other to share his/her experience as your supporter. Dads need positive role models too!

• Keep focus on the positive aspects of breastfeeding – you can travel light without formula, bottles or nipples.

We know the topic of breastfeeding can be controversial due to the sexualization of breasts in American culture.

If we are able to focus on the benefits of breastfeeding and the love we all have for our children, the actions we take to empower mothers in their choice to breastfeed become more essential.


2012-04-03T10:47:50+00:00April 3rd, 2012|Categories: Fertility Blog|Tags: , |

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?

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