I am sitting down today to write about a serious issue intimately related to breastfeeding. There is an enormous amount of pressure placed on new parents to breastfeed. I acknowledge that the known science supports breastfeeding as the ideal feeding choice for newborns. Breastfeeding provides more than nutrition and medical benefits to the lactating parent and infant. It also is a powerful bond between a parent and their baby.
That bond is also formed when bottle feeding in many different forms. There are many reasons why a parent may not breastfeed. It may be a personal choice. Breastfeeding can include struggles which make the journey difficult. I have a full time job assisting parents in their goals so I understand the hurdles that can and do exist. The bottom line is this. If a parent is bottle feeding it is not my place to judge or place guilt on that parent. Society should not place guilt on them either. If they desire assistance in reaching breastfeeding goals, I am there!
Our country is a paradox when it comes to messages to new parents and breastfeeding. The initial message is, "Breastfeed, it's the best for baby". Some parents are shamed for not breastfeeding. At the same time the support for breastfeeding in the US is seriously lacking. There is still no paid leave for lactating parents in the US. Many people struggle with adequate time to pump, clean areas to pump and harassment during pumping. Insurance companies are required to cover Lactation counseling but they still often find loopholes around this. Parents have to wait until they deliver their baby to request their electric breast pump from their insurance companies. This leaves them without a pump for a week or more after discharge from the hospital. People continue to face harassment when breastfeeding in public. Lack of knowledge about normal breastfeeding leads to misinformation flowing from many sources. This can lead to early cessation of breastfeeding.
Our culture is one of isolation for many new parents. Many people have no family support nearby or limited support. Many have never seen anyone breastfeed before. This produces a larger learning curve when initiating nursing. Support groups, friends, IBCLC's and other support professionals are needed in greater amount and accessibility. If a parent is struggling due to these issues, we need to rally behind them and support them in their breastfeeding goals.
We know this is sometimes difficult and parents are left to struggle alone often. This needs to change.
Choosing a feeding method for your baby is an emotional and complicated decision which may evolve and change over time. And honestly it is none of my business why a parent chooses one method over another. I am there to provide education and support for all parents on their journey. A new parent's emotional health is paramount in the post partum period and beyond. We have to discuss choices, challenges and feelings openly. No one has the right to judge a person's individual decision to breastfeed, bottle feed or formula feed. We must support our new parents in their decisions and celebrate their strength in knowing themselves and their goals.
This is a call to action to improve breastfeeding support, and new parent support and education. We can do better together.