“60% of mothers do not breastfeed for as long as they intend to.”Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
The above statistic from the CDC speaks to why breast / chestfeeding may stop earlier than planned. How long a mother breastfeeds her baby is influenced by many factors including:
- Issues with lactation and latching.
- Concerns about infant nutrition and weight.
- Mother’s concern about taking medications while breastfeeding.
- Unsupportive work policies and lack of parental leave.
- Cultural norms and/or lack of family support.
- Unsupportive hospital practices and policies.
Support is imperative as one embarks on the journey of breast / chestfeeding. The above facts indicate that support is not always available. The Office of the Surgeon General (US) states that, “mothers are also uncertain about what to expect with breastfeeding and how to actually carry it out. Even though breastfeeding is often described as ‘natural,’ it is also an art that has to be learned by both the mother and the newborn.”
The above information is the basis for a much needed dialogue. It isn’t being presented as a scare tactic but as a start to identifying what can be done to combat the issue. Maziwa Tribe believes in highlighting issues and identifying tangible solutions to combat said issues. A mindset shift is required in society, health care settings, places of employment and within our personal familial and social arenas. Arming oneself with knowledge is a start to generating healthy conversations about the benefits and normalization of breast / chestfeeding.
We are well aware that breasts are celebrated in magazines and across several other forms of media, however, the nursing of an infant in pubic spaces continues to be met with opposition by some. For every grimace that I have received I can cite instances where I felt supported. One occurrence stands out – I recall walking downtown not too far from my home. My daughter was about six months old and was nursing in her carrier. An employee saw us walking by her clothing store and invited us to come into the store. We were presented with options – sit and nurse in the main area of the store or in a fitting room for more privacy. She even returned with a bottle of water. The support felt absolutely amazing and I wrote a letter to the store owner.
Progress has been made across the United States because laws are in place to protect nursing parents. Federal law passed in 1999 made it legal to breast / chestfeed openly on federal property and in federal spaces. Of course there were states that held out on writing specific laws. In 2018 Breast / chestfeeding in public became legal in all 50 states. What does this mean? It means that you are able to nurse your baby in public (restaurants, stores) or in private spaces as you desire without having to cover up. The law does not classify openly breast / chestfeeding as indecent exposure although there are some individuals that do. No worries because everyone is entitled to their opinion, right?
Baby friendly hospitals are another form of support. The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI ), “launched in 1991, is an effort by The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure that all maternities, whether free standing or in a hospital, become centers of breastfeeding support. According to BFHI, “a maternity facility can be designated ‘baby-friendly’ when it does not accept free or low-cost breastmilk substitutes, feeding bottles or teats, and has implemented 10 specific steps to support successful breastfeeding.” Such hospitals that hold the Baby Friendly distinction are verified by a third party to ensure compliance. Hospital staff are trained to provide care to nursing parents and babies stay close to their parents. It is important to note that this distinction does not mean “anti formula” as supplementation is utilized when medically necessary. Parents who desire to breast / chestfeed are urged to inquire about Baby Friendly Hospitals, seek them out and ask questions when researching a birthing space.
Sometimes those closest to you can provide opposition as it relates to supporting your personal breast / chestfeeding goals. Their comments are negative and can result in shame which can cause doubt about the ability to provide adequate nourishment to your infant. Maziwa Tribe urges you to find your Tribe of supporters. Your Tribe will be those that cheer you on during the good, the bad, the ugly and everything in between. Your tribe will fully honor and respect your personal goals for breast / chestfeeding. These individuals will shield you from negativity as you navigate your journey. They are an absolute must for this journey. Seek them out and hold them close.
We wholeheartedly believe in the benefits of positive energy. This is reflected in the development of our Affirmation Cards for Breastfeeding Support. We encourage you to check them out and to incorporate them in your daily breast / chestfeeding walk. Our 30 card deck is the ideal gift for yourself, a new parent or expectant parent. Be sure to also view our list of resources to add to your tool box of breast / chestfeeding knowledge.
Until Next Time,
Peace, Love & Breastmilk