BreastfeedingCommon ProblemsFirst Five DaysPregnancy

Living In America And Set Up To Fail.

Our brains learn best through watching, yet many American mothers have never seen a woman breastfeeding.

When you do, you unconsciously learn from her about how normal, awful, and amazing nursing really is. In cultures where everyone breastfeeds, studies show that women don’t have an easier time learning how to breastfeed, but when they encounter challenges, everyone helps them to continue breastfeeding.

Bottles, not breasts, are the culturally accepted feeding method. 

Our culture boasts of family values, yet there is little cultural support, and not much celebration, for the breastfeeding baby. Bottles and pacifiers are promoted hand-in-hand with babies. They are visible everywhere: in babies’ mouths, on t-shirts, gift bags, party decorations, baby gifts, advertisements, health insurance brochures, and doctor’s offices. 

Breasts are everywhere you look. Lingerie, beer ads, football games, billboards and magazine covers all show generous breasts airbrushed to unnatural perfection. But the few breasts feeding babies are most likely in a news story about a woman who was told to stop breastfeeding in public. While the municipality or company behind the scandal always publicly apologizes, the shaming continues, and it has a chilling effect when you think about feeding your baby away from home.

Predatory marketing sets you up to fail breastfeeding.

Many hospitals still give new moms a “just-in-case” promotional bag, with bottles of formula, and pacifiers. Many corporations promote their product at nearly any cost, even human life. And we are encouraged to marketing for them, by accepting branded gifts, buying branded products, and wearing branded clothing and accessories.

America has not adopted the The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (“The Code”) as law, or even as a guideline. The Code protects vulnerable parents and innocent babies from predatory marketing. Predatory marketing, in this context, is a company, or medical profesisonal making claims, using untrue or questionable statements, to new parents about formula, bottles and nipples. Making claims that seem plausible to someone who is vulnerable, or in distress, such as a new mother who is anxious about her baby being hungry.  

Little or no maternity leave sets you up to fail at breastfeeding

The United States is the only developed nation in the world with no paid maternity leave. Going back to work before breastfeeding is established is part of living in America and is addressed in its own chapter.

How do you get around this barrier?

We know that when breastfeeding people are with other breastfeeding people, they usually keep breastfeeding.

When you don’t have cultural support, peer support is nearly as good. While America as a whole is not a breastfeeding culture, there are micro cultures of breastfeeding families everywhere. Don’t practice the lonely stoicism of the pioneer woman living on the prairie. There is a new outlook on breastfeeding awaiting when you join, or even create, a breastfeeding community. 

You may be uncomfortable about doing this.

Maybe the thought of attending a mother’s group, or breastfeeding support group, seems overwhelming. You may feel paralyzed by anxiety, or feel insecure, about your situation and feelings, as a mother. You may be really emotional for many months after having a baby, and feel like you can’t go out in public. 

Most moms feel insecure. Most moms feel lonely, and out of sorts, after their baby is born. It may seem like a big anxiety producing effort to attend a meeting, but women aren’t meant to do this alone. Most mothers feel better once they find a community that is a good fit. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed trying to get someplace with a baby but it gets easier every time you do it.

It might take a few tries.

You will meet parents you like, and those you don’t. Even though you both breastfeed, you may not feel nourished by their friendship. It’s OK to cool a friendship, and keep trying other friendships. This philosophy also applies to relatives, neighbors and co-workers.

1. While you are pregnant, and when you are out with your baby, look for breastfeeding-friendly resources in your community. Places like playgrounds, libraries, churches, public spaces, play spaces, cafés, Meetup.com, and stores are all hubs where breastfeeding women gather.

2. Look for breastfeeding support groups sponsored by hospitals, WIC offices, baby stores, community centers, and OB/GYNs, midwives and lactation consultants. 

3. Join La Leche League, Breastfeeding USA, Baby Café, Chocolate Milk Café or another breastfeeding support group, and attend meetings starting in your second or third trimester. Every pregnant woman thinks it’s weird to go, as if you aren’t really a mom until after you have a baby. And most every mom wishes she had done this while expecting.

4. If you can’t find a breastfeeding support group, start one. Join Meetup.com, or put up a flyer at your doctor’s office, church, library children’s room, or preschool. Post a notice in your local newspaper or online event listing. You only need 2 or 3 moms in order for each of you to gain a much wider perspective of what “normal” is, and how normal you really are!

5. Become an advocate for breastfeeding in your life and your community. Host a Big Latch On, or participate in a Live Love Latch event during World Breastfeeding Week and raise awareness in your community.

Online communities are another valuable support

There’s nothing like getting together with friends in real life, but it’s not always feasible–especially if the world in locked down in a pandemic. In the past 3 months, in 2020, we have moved all activities from live to online. There is a Facebook group in any flavor of breastfeeding, chestfeeding, breastmilk feeding, and combo feeding you can imagine. To find them, type in the kind of feeding you do and join the group. There are also online forums connected to all baby centered media websites, like Mothering and What to Expect. And there is the Breastfeeding Café, my tiny online community.

Remember that more than 80% of all mothers in the USA begin breastfeeding their baby. Those who meet their goals usually do so in a community of breastfeeding parents who support each other with information and empathy.

Links for breastfeeding cultures and communities

La Leche League

Breastfeeding USA 

WIC

Baby Café

Chocolate Milk Café

Meetup.com

Mother of three, including twins; Lactation Consultant; Partner of Michael;
  • lumsefoFure
  • March 27, 2024
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