It’s World Breastfeeding Week 2012!
Today started World Breastfeeding Week (WBW), an international celebration of breastfeeding. You may have seen folks posting about World Breastfeeding Week on Facebook or in the news and wondered what WBW is even for…
According to worldbreastfeedingweek.org
, one of the things WBW highlights is the WHO*/UNICEF** Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding, which states that governments and organizations need to “protect, promote and support exclusive breastfeeding for first six months, and continued breastfeeding for two years or beyond together with adequate, appropriate and indigenous complementary feeding starting from the age of six months.”
“Exclusive breastfeeding” means nothing but breastmilk (no water, no formula, no food). Is six months a lot to ask? There seem to be “mommy wars” over this. What happened to the recommendation to exclusively breastfeeding for 4-6 months? The WHO always said six months but organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics, until recently, apparently believed that six months was too much to ask of American women…is it? Moms who breastfeed longer than six months typically say it’s easy by then so why quit. Moms who stop before six months typically say it’s because they had to go back to work or nursing was too difficult. So what can we do to support these moms so they can continue nursing longer? Get them access to help. And right away!
What’s the #1 reason why women stop nursing? Lack of support. Hands-down. For new moms, the pressure to NOT breastfeed is immense. It can start in the hospital. Even in hospitals where breastfeeding is stated to be best, there are still nurses who encourage moms to give the baby a bottle of formula before the baby leaves the hospital. If mom leaves the hospital having fed her baby only breastmilk, it gets more challenging during the first week or two, especially since formula companies mail “gifts” of formula to moms or hospitals give moms formula when they leave the hospital. Grandparents, friends, partners can be supportive and helpful or they can be discouraging. The first week is such a fragile time for new moms, too. Cognitive function is low because hormones of pregnancy and postpartum are changing. Sleep is lacking and learning how to nurse (a new skill!) can be challenging.
Where can moms get support?
a) hire a birth doula who is also a breastfeeding counselor
b) hire a postpartum doula who is also a breastfeeding counselor
c) hire a pediatrician who has nursed her own child (or whose wife has nursed their child) AND who states that before recommending formula she/he would recommend you attend a breastfeeding support group or see a lactation consultant for help
d) breastfeeding support groups, for example:
~ Breastmilk and Cookies
with Jeanette of Maternity Circle (which takes place at Babies in Common on Tuesdays at 1:00 pm)
~ a group led by your hospital’s lactation consultants (not all hospitals offer this)
Breastfeeding takes commitment and the ability to ask for help. It also takes time…be patient with yourself and your baby as you welcome guidance from those around you and from those whose life work it is to help you and other moms and babies!
*WHO=World Health Organization
**UNICEF=United Nations Children’s Fund