5 Dollars

My life as an at-home momma of 3 amazing kids...it's kind of like shoveling snow in a blizzard.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Breastfeed or else! So what do you think?

Although I think that the public health campaign (which was launched by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. a year ago, BTW) is a bit "out there" I still think it's very important for new moms to be targeted with this kind of information. A campaign directed at mothers (especially first time mothers) was really needed, but maybe they could have found a better way to present the message.

One of the points of this whole campaign was also to begin to change the language that we use when we talk about breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is the biological norm. It's what our bodies expect to do after birth and it's what a baby's system is designed to expect for nutrition. But we don't talk about it that way anymore. The language we currently tend to use implys that formula feeding is the norm, as opposed to an alternative. Pregnancy books and prenatal classes always talk about "the benefits of breastfeeding."

Nope. Sorry folks. I'm gonna say something shocking. There are NO BENEFITS to breastfeeding. Yep...you heard me right. If something is the biological norm, how can doing it be considered beneficial? Since breastfeeding should be considered the norm, in truth it carries no "benefits." Instead, choosing not to breastfeed carries RISKS or DISADVANTAGES. Because breastfeeding should be considered the biological norm, breastfed babies should not be refered to as "healthier babies," but instead we should say that artificially-fed babies are typically ill more often and more seriously.

The Indy Star article mentions that Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), has proposed requiring manufacturers to place warning labels on cans of infant formula and in advertisements, similar to those on cigarettes. I think this is a fabulous idea. Any other product that carries such serious risks typically has a warning label of some sort on it. Why not on a can of formula?

And here's the one thing that really irks me when discussions about this subject come up. Inevitaby, some mother makes a comment like, "how can you tell me, or any other mom, that we are horrible and bad moms for not breast feeding?" In truth, they are reading into things and projecting their own feelings and opinions into what they have read or heard. The majority of the time no one has called anyone else a bad mom. Instead, what has been said is that formula AS A SUBSTANCE is inferior to breastmilk AS A SUBSTANCE. It has nothing at all to do with the people involved, their parenting skills or how much they love their children. It's a comparison of two substances.

SO...how do we look at this whole situation in a positive way? How do we encourage more mothers to try breastfeeding and to nurse their children longer? How do we get them to attempt to meet the
AAP's recommendation of nursing for at least 12 months

I think the absolute biggest problem that we face in attempting to increase breastfeeding rates in the United States is that, as a whole, our society doesn't value children and families. Babies are expected to fit into the family unit and nothing should change. Women are given little or no paid time off work when they give birth. Some women here in the USA are lucky enough to be given 12 weeks off through FMLA, but that time is unpaid. What good is time off work if you can't pay the bills for those 12 weeks? As the article states, "...urging women to breast-feed exclusively is a tall order in a country where more than 60 percent of mothers of very young children work."

When mothers do return to work, they may have to beg their employer for a place and a time where they can pump to maintain their milk supply and provide expressed milk for their child during their separation. If they are granted a time and place to pump, they may still face pressures at work that make it difficult to continue pumping. For low-income mothers, the opportunities to pump at work are often slim to none and the free formula provided by WIC is a huge temptation.

Mothers need prenatal education about breastfeeding. Caregivers need to talk to mothers about the importance of breastfeeding and the risks associated with artificial feeding. They need to know that they are welcome to attend support groups like La Leche League before the baby arrives in order to learn more about breastfeeding and build a support system for after the baby arrives.

Mothers need more time off from work after the arrival of a new baby, preferably paid time off. The 12 weeks that FMLA provides should be the minimum time a mother takes off after the birth, not the current average of a measly 6 weeks. Even if the mother isn't breastfeeding, becoming a mother is a major life change and should be treated as such!

Mothers need support from other women and health care professionals who are knowledgeable about breastfeeding. (And, in the case of HCP's...not in the formula companies' pocket.) They need easy access to La Leche League Leaders, International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC) and they need follow-up care in the early weeks at home from their doctors or midwives.

Working mothers need access to good quality breastpumps that are affordable. They need places to pump privately at work. They need child care providers who are supportive of breastfeeding. If possible, on-site child care with nursing breaks would be wonderful.

In general, nursing mothers need society to grow up a bit and remember that breasts were created to nourish our young, not to be oogled on billboards, movie screens or in Victoria's Secret catalogues. Mothers need to be able to nurse in public without being harrassed, asked to nurse in a bathroom or to "not do that here."

So.....what do you think?


  • At 10:02 PM, June 19, 2006 , Blogger Bree said...

    Honestly, I agree with you for the most part, save the idea of putting warning labels on cans of formula. I don't think I could ever agree with that. They are already required to put "breastfeeding is best" on the cans and I think that is enough. I am currently breastfeeding and formula feeding my 7 month old, and we have done it this way for months now with no signs of apparent weaning. I can tell you I had a horrible start due to stubborn jaundice, the baby would not gain with me pumping, taking fenugreek, and breastfeeding alone. I spent hours at night on Kellymom searching for awnsers. I called LC's that never returned my calls. I nursed in front of pediatricians. I was so caught up in "doing the right thing" that I ignored a viable solution to his poor weight gain for several unecessary months. When I finally gave in to trying formula, I felt absolutely horrible and guilty for having to supplement. For me it was a necessity as the situation was quickly approaching dangerous. I will tell you that the last thing I would have needed to see at that very vulnerable moment was a warning label on the can of formula, especially if it was along the same lines as a smoking or alcohol warning label.
    I think it's really easy to sit atop a perch and preach about how people aren't educated enough, people aren't willing to change the dynamics of their family, etc, but the reality remains that there are many mothers out there who, despite having the knowledge and resources available to succeed at breasfeeding, just can't. I agree with the fact that formula as a substace is inferior to breastmilk, and trust me, if I could give my child breastmilk alone, I most certainly would. I spent too much time of my life and my infant's life agonizing over the fact formula is inferior by comparison. In retrospect, I was probably so caught up in the whole thing that I am sure I affected my supply to it's detriment.
    I think as a society we could encourage a mother to feed her baby breastmilk by taking action to bring breasfeeding into the mainstream, giving mothers more time off,providing adequate breaktimes at work to accomplish pumping, accepting children into the workplace, making more on-site daycare available, all of the things you talk about in your post. But I also think that there needs to be a balance between educating and pressuring. When I sought out awnsers online, I came across many moms who would tell me my pediatricians were full of crap, they didn't know what they were talking about, I didn't have to supplement, he was fine the way he was, etc. It WAS pressure. I think in some ways those "good intentions" can really be counterproductive to breastfeeding, turning what would normally just be a "stressed out" mom into a depressed one.

  • At 12:58 PM, June 20, 2006 , Anonymous Trevor Butterworth said...

    Hi, you might be interested in the following article just published at www.stats.org


    [b]What Science Really Says About the Benefits of Breast-Feeding (and what the New York Times didn't tell you)[/b]
    June 20, 2006
    Dr. Rebecca Goldin
    Director of Research, Statistical Assessment Service,Assistant Professor, Mathematical Sciences, George Mason University
    Dr. Emer Smyth
    Assistant Professor of Pharmacology at Univ. of Pennsylvania)
    Dr. Andrea Foulkes
    Assistant Professor of Biostatistics at Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst

    [i]The Science Times section of the New York Times announced today that it had received more than 100 letters "pro and con" over its article "Breast-Feed or Else." Coverage of the reaction suggests that this is a controversial topic, with the Times acting as an honest broker; but when a newspaper compared cigarette smoking to using infant formula, we suspected that there's got to be something screwy with the science, which is, in fact, the case. By failing to take a thorough, critical look at the evidence for this new public health campaign, the Times has caused needless anguish to countless mothers. [/i]

  • At 6:17 PM, June 20, 2006 , Blogger joanna said...

    Carissa,I don't think I could agree with you more.


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