Many woman continue to be confronted with breastfeeding barriers in the U.S. All over in the media you can find images of women portrayed as sexual objects. Numerous controversies arise when a women is seen breastfeeding, as evidenced by the news in the past year, but it seems perfectly okay for a women to expose herself if it is for sexual or entertainment purposes. Everywhere I look I am bombarded by people with the opinion that it is not okay for a woman to nurse her child in public or, even more often, that it is okay if the woman covers herself up. How about covering up the billboard of the woman in her underwear? While their have been improvements in recent years concerning the breastfeeding issue in the United States we are still lagging way behind the rest of the western countries. Despite information from The American Academy of Pediatrics recommending at least one year of breastfeeding and The World Health Organisation which suggests two years many women are not even getting through the first couple of months; and, 42% of mothers never even start. Many of the excuses I have seen from women who never even started breastfeeding follow along the lines of: “I would just feel funny letting my baby suck on my breast.” Many women express that while they would like to try breast-feeding their mother, lover, friend, etc. has expressed to them that breastfeeding is in some way perverse; especially when the baby can be given formal which is “just as good” and doesn’t require the baby to be exposed to the female breast. These views of the female breast as being purely sexual or “too sexual” to expose children to has caused a large number of women to not even try breastfeeding. Breastfeeding becomes a very difficult task when a woman feels that she must run home every time her baby needs to eat or hide herself as if she is doing something that she should feel ashamed of.
While many women start breastfeeding, and the number has been increasing, most women simple do not do it long enough. Few women even make it through the most minimally recommended six months. After spending loads of time moving through boards of women discussing their breastfeeding experiences I found the main reason for this to be a lack of support and a lack of information. Where possible it is vitally important that the breastfeeding relationship be started within hours of the birth. Ideally a new born baby should be placed directly at his or her mother’s breast. However, in the conventional hospital birth scenario this is rarely what occurs. Those first hours at the breast are vitally important to the breastfeeding relationship. And, while breastfeeding is the most highly recommended way to feed your baby I have heard numerous stories from woman who did not get support or information from their various medical professionals on the issue. The country is still plagued with hospitals without lactation consultants, nurses who offer no support to the breastfeeding relationship and family doctors and peditricians who instead of supporting a women who is struggling with those first weeks of breastfeeding tell her to do things like supplementing her breastmilk with formula. It is very rare for a woman to not make enough breastmilk to support her child. And, supplementing with formula only makes the issue worse. Breastfeeding is a supply and demand relationship. The more a mother puts her baby to the breast the more milk she produces. Furthermore, supplementing with formula can compound any problems a breastfeeding woman is already experiencing by creating nipple confusion. Those half of American women who do succeed at breastfeeding rarely continue for the recommended lengths of time often because they are told by female relations and others when they attempt to breastfeed for more extended periods of time that they should stop because their breasts are “for their husbands!” And, despite the progressing campaign to increase the numbers of breastfed babies and awareness about breastfeeding in the industrialised world the news stories keep appearing everyday about yet another woman treated with discrimination because of her choice to breastfeed. Babies have to eat and breastmilk is the best thing around!
To compound this not only is breastfeeding taking a beating, but it seems that breastmilk is taking a hit as well; and, not in the way that you would expect. All over the United States a campaign is out to inform women of the health benefits of breastfeeding; however, a woman from Ohio named Robin Neorr when signing her child up at the local day-care was told that because her child was breastfed and Robin would be bringing pumped breastmilk for the day-care to give her she would have to pay an extra $50 a week to enroll her daughter in the day-care. The reason given for this was that breastmilk was a potentially hazardous bodily fluid and it would, therefore, have to be placed in a separate refrigerator from the baby formula and would need a separate warming pot as well. On top of this Robin’s breastmilk was also marked with a sticker exclaiming “Biohazard.” In a time when the public and government have been working to re-popularize the very beneficial action of breastfeeding incidences like these show us that we still have a long way to go. And, for those who are unsure The Center for Disease Control affirms that breastmilk is in no way a biohazard.
Breastfeeding has proved itself over and over again to be the healthiest way to feed your baby. Breastmilk is often given the name of “liquid gold.” The week of August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week in over 120 countries. And, last year in 2006 The Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, signed a document declaring the entire month of August as Breastfeeding Awareness Month. Lets make it a great month for breastfeeding. If you have not taken an opportunity to inform yourself on the issue then do it! And, take the time to give your support to the pregnant and/or breastfeeding women around you. Our mothers, daughters and sisters need our support if we are going to realize a more breastfeeding friendly society.