The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “hopes to empower women to commit to breastfeeding. This month we focus not just on the reasons why it’s important to breastfeed, but on how to make breastfeeding work for you and your baby.” Research suggests babies who are breastfed (exclusively) for the first six month develop fewer if any ear infections, have less symptoms of diarrhea and are less likely to develop childhood obesity. Despite findings that breastfed babies are smarter and healthier, as of 2014 only 79% of new mothers breastfed from birth and only 62% of the 79% were breastfeeding at six months. In Washington, Oregon, Montana and California over 90% of new moms breastfed, with West Virginia and Louisiana reporting less than 60%. Though they came in at 90%, Vermont had the highest rate of breastfeeding at six months – more than 60%, at 12 months – more than 40%, and the highest rate of new moms exclusively breastfeeding at six and 12 months.
“Improving the health of Americans is a primary goal of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Breastfeeding, with its many known health benefits for infants, children, and mothers, is a key strategy to accomplish this goal”. Despite the CDC’s reporting and ongoing efforts, breastfeeding is a personal choice. Moms who adopt, who travel extensively for work or have serious illnesses can find it hard and at times impossible to breastfeed. New moms who have a history of drug and alcohol abuse, are living in poverty stricken unhealthy environments, are homeless or suffer psychological, behavioral or mental disorders might choose not to breastfeed. Pumping isn’t always possible, and few employers provide breastfeeding rooms. When breastfeeding in public, people stare. As women’s health moves into the forefront obstacles such as these will be overcome however, like other social advances this will take time.
In an attempt to avoid the frowns, dirty looks (when a bottle is pulled from a diaper bag) and pushback from the nay-sayers moms continually give it one more try, harming themselves physically, mentally and emotionally. In Parenting Magazine’s online article, The Breastfeeding Police we read: “Andrea Gideon dreads shopping for infant formula. "Haven't you even tried breastfeeding?" cashiers have chided. And once while perusing the store, with formula in her basket and her son nestled cozily in a sling, she encountered another mother whose baby was also in a sling -- at the breast. The two made eye contact, but instead of returning Gideon's smile, the woman said, "Don't you know you're feeding your baby artificial crap?” Researches report 2% of women fail to produce enough milk to breastfed; mothers displaying psychiatric and behavioral disorders are often counseled ‘not’ to breastfeed, and others lactate poorly due to postpartum surgery.
If you choose to breastfeed, can breastfeed, and you and your baby are healthy celebrate the month with millions of other mothers worldwide. If you choose or have been told not to breastfeed, hold your head high and live proudly with your decision. Breastfeeding is important, however what’s more important is the mental, physical, psychological and emotional health of mom and the health and wellness of baby