Supporting breastfeeding mothers: the why, the how, and a challenge

Breastfeeding mothers feeding babies in public... via I Love Charts

Most breastfeeding mothers have never actually exposed their breasts in public in order to feed their babies. Most women breastfeed so discretely in public that most people wouldn’t even realize it. But if a little skin does happen to show, who should care?

Breastfeeding is good for mothers and it is good for kids. Simple.

Supporting breastfeeding mothers in society requires:

  • Education – Most women truly do not understand the specific benefits of breastfeeding, for themselves and their babies. Many aren’t given the tools they need to perform this “natural” act of feeding their babies. Too many believe it is not worth any inconveniences or difficulties.
  • Changing Social Norms – Breastfeeding is no longer a behavior that people grow up seeing as part of raising babies. Women can be on the receiving end of negative behavior toward breastfeeding, particularly in public and after a certain age.
  • Friends and Family Support – Fathers play an important role in many women’s decision to breastfeed at all and certainly whether to continue. Having a circle of female friends and family giving breastfeeding advice, both positive and negative, are increasingly influential for new mothers.
  • Embarrassment – A 2001 study found that only 43% of U.S. adults believed that women should have the right to breastfeed in public places.
  • Breastfeeding Difficulties – It can be excruciatingly difficult for some women. It is just plain hard for the majority. Without support, and often professional assistance, women are much less likely to continue to breastfeed.
  • Returning to Work – A significant barrier to breastfeeding due to inflexibility in the workplace (hours,  ability to pump, and pressure from coworkers or managers).
  • Hospital and Health Care – Hospitals are often not supportive of a breastfeeding mother and in fact, only 5% of U.S. babies are born in a baby-friendly hospital as designated by the CDC. Lack of access to supportive health care providers for pre- and post-natal care is crucial for women.

The Ten Steps to Successful BreastfeedingThe 2011 Surgeon General’s Call To Action To Support Breastfeeding includes:

  • Giving mothers the support they need to breastfeed their babies.
  • Developing programs to educate fathers and grandmothers about breastfeeding.
  • Strengthening programs that provide mother-to-mother support and peer counseling.
  • Using community-based organizations to promote and support breastfeeding.
  • Ensuring that the marketing of infant formula is conducted in a way that minimizes its negative impacts on exclusive breastfeeding.
  • Ensuring that maternity care practices throughout the United States are fully supportive of breastfeeding.
  • Providing education and training in breastfeeding for all health professionals who care for women and children.
  • Identifying and address obstacles to greater availability of safe banked donor milk for fragile infants.
  • Work toward establishing paid maternity leave and comprehensive, high-quality lactation support programs for all employed mothers.
  • Ensuring that all child care providers accommodate the needs of breastfeeding mothers and infants.
  • Increasing funding of high-quality research on breastfeeding.
  • Improving national leadership on the promotion and support of breastfeeding.

So now that we know where and how we need to address the issues facing breastfeeding mothers, what are we going to actually do about it?

For World Breastfeeding Week, I challenge you to find some way to support a breastfeeding mother in your own life and share in the comments!




I’m celebrating World Breastfeeding Week with Natural Parents Network!

You can, too — link up your breastfeeding posts from August 1-7 in the linky below, and enjoy reading, commenting on, and sharing the posts collected here and on Natural Parents Network.

(Visit NPN for the code to place on your blog.)

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Supporting breastfeeding mothers: the why, the how, and a challenge — 4 Comments

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  2. Pingback: What would you tell yourself about breastfeeding before you decided to? | A green living, green parenting blog

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