Today, Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin will release her first Call to Action (CTA) with the theme: support breastfeeding. The decision to breastfeed is a personal one, and a mother should not be made to feel guilty if she cannot or chooses not to breastfeed. However, the success rate among mothers who want to breastfeed can be greatly improved through active support from their families, friends, communities, clinicians, health care leaders, employers, and policymakers. As such, Dr. Benjamin will call on these sectors of the community to support women who want to breastfeed their babies.
Breastfeeding is hard, it is super hard. In fact, I don’t even think it can be done alone, women need support from others and I needed support from others. When I had my daughter, she was born with the instinct to breastfeed. She seemed to latch and she put on weight right away, but it was painful, super painful. Luckily, I live in an area that is Super PRO breastfeeding. There are 24 hour hotlines I could call for support and I was able to get into a lactation consultant any time. They told me the latch was wrong and we worked to fix it, but it was still painful. So with a further examination we found that Zoe and I were suffering from a yeast infection. Because of that, whenever I was in pain, I went in and found out that I had another yeast infection. Breast feeding was natural for Zoe and I and whenever it was off, with the help of professionals we were able to get right back on target. However, I was also supported by family. If my stepmother had not come up and helped me out for a week after Zoe was born, I never would have succeeded. She cooked for me and did quite a few baby diapers so I could sleep and rest. Between her and all of the professionals I was able to breastfeed Zoe for the first year of her life.
“Many barriers exist for mothers who want to breastfeed,” Dr. Benjamin said. “They shouldn’t have to go it alone. Whether you’re a clinician, a family member, a friend, or an employer, you can play an important part in helping mothers who want to breastfeed.
I completely agree with Dr. Benjamin!
My second child, I was not so successful. I went through quite a bit with his birth, I was left all alone to care for him and his sister and the only support I had were the professionals but I had to reach out to them. Because I was depressed, I didn’t do that. We only lasted one week, or maybe two. He wasn’t putting on weight the way his sister did so I freaked out and put him on formula and then went further into depression because I felt like a failure as a mother. I was not a failure!! I did what was best for my son and I. But I do feel that if I had more support at home I might have had more success. I didn’t have MOMS Club at that time, my family didn’t come up to visit when he was born, and my husband had to go back to work. So I urge women to find a support system when you are pregnant so you are not left alone when your child comes. Breastfeeding is best. But I also urge you to understand that if you choose not to breastfeed or are unable to like I was that you BELIEVE and Realize you are not a failure of a mother.
Dr. Benjamin states, “Of course, the decision to breastfeed is a personal one,” she added, “no mother should be made to feel guilty if she cannot or chooses not to breastfeed.”
While 75 percent of U.S. babies start out breastfeeding, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, only 13 percent are exclusively breastfed at the end of six months. The rates are particularly low among African-American infants.
Many mothers who attempt to breastfeed say several factors impede their efforts, such as a lack of support at home; absence of family members who have experience with breastfeeding; a lack of breastfeeding information from health care clinicians; a lack of time and privacy to breastfeed or express milk at the workplace; and an inability to connect with other breastfeeding mothers in their communities.
Dr. Benjamin’s “Call to Action” identifies ways that families, communities, employers and health care professionals can improve breastfeeding rates and increase support for breastfeeding:
· Communities should expand and improve programs that provide mother-to-mother support and peer counseling.
· Health care systems should ensure that maternity care practices provide education and counseling on breastfeeding. Hospitals should become more “baby-friendly,” by taking steps like those recommended by the UNICEF/WHO’s Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative.
· Clinicians should ensure that they are trained to properly care for breastfeeding mothers and babies. They should promote breastfeeding to their pregnant patients and make sure that mothers receive the best advice on how to breastfeed.
· Employers should work toward establishing paid maternity leave and high-quality lactation support programs. Employers should expand the use of programs that allow nursing mothers to have their babies close by so they can feed them during the day. They should also provide women with break time and private space to express breast milk.
· Families should give mothers the support and encouragement they need to breastfeed.
Family members can help mother’s prepare for breastfeeding and support their continued breastfeeding, including after her return to work or school.
According to the “Call to Action, breastfeeding protects babies from infections and illnesses that include diarrhea, ear infections, and pneumonia. Breastfed babies are also less likely to develop asthma, and those who are breastfed for six months are less likely to become obese. Mothers themselves who breastfeed have a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
Support your loved ones, make a meal, watch their child, or just love them deeply as they go through the transition of being pregnant to being a mother.