Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Oh, Let's Just Call the Post "Boobies." The Google Searches Are Coming Anyway...

Should mothers be guilted into breastfeeding? According to this New York Times article, some US officials seem to think so.

For example, the piece mentions PSAs depicting a pregnant woman being thrown from a mechanical bull. Her choice to ride is, according to the ad, as risky to her child as would be the choice to formula-feed.


Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa has proposed adding cigarette-style warnings to formula packages.

Here's what I thought was the key paragraph from the Times:

"... Urging women to breast-feed exclusively is a tall order in a country where more than 60 percent of mothers of very young children work, federal law requires large companies to provide only 12 weeks' unpaid maternity leave and lactation leave is unheard of. Only a third of large companies provide a private, secure area where women can express breast milk during the workday, and only 7 percent offer on-site or near-site child care, according to a 2005 national study of employers by the nonprofit Families and Work Institute."

I'd say, given the obstacles facing a new mother, putting a warning label on a formula canister is kind of like putting a Band-Aid on an amputation. If the good Senator really wants to promote breastfeeding in the United States, he and his colleagues can:

1. Make it easier for mothers who return to work to continue to nurse their babies.

2. Do some research. Why are black mothers less likely to breastfeed than Hispanic mothers? When women choose not to breastfeed, or to stop nursing "early," what are their reasons?

3. Use the research to improve the odds for moms who want to nurse. No agendas, no pressure -- that turns people off -- just opportunities.

4. If you're gonna pay for public service announcements, start with the stigma around public breastfeeding. No parent trying to do what's right for their family wants to get a dirty look. (In all fairness, this works in reverse as well. I know some moms feel they've been harshly judged for bottle-feeding.)

I think most moms know that breastfeeding=good. I think we also know first-hand that it's hard. And maybe we could use a little help, instead of guilt and threats.

*Disclaimer: I am lucky. I work for a company that DOES provide a private lactation room. My husband, boss, doctor, and daycare were all supportive of me. They supported me when I attempted to feed Raisin just breastmilk, and they supported me when I couldn't pump that much and had to supplement with formula. Because I'm lucky, I was able to breastfeed until I was ready to stop. My opinions are colored by my own experience. If your opinion and/or experience is different, feel free to share. But be nice.

7 comments:

Isabel said...

I go back to work next Monday and am not looking forward to pumping in the bathroom.

But I'm gonna try it and hope it works.

K. said...

Your points are excellent and very well stated. They get to the root of the issue.

Jane said...

As a teacher, in a profession where your maternity leave is taken from your sick leave and you have to borrow against your future sick days, and where there is no time or private space to pump, I'm with you. If they want us to breastfeed, great. Now make it feasible for working moms. 'Cause it's *not*.

Jessica said...

I wish I would have been able to let go of the guilt when all of my best laid plans went down the crapper; not only did my son refuse the breast, but I could only pump about 1-2 ounces A DAY with a hospital-grade pump. After seven weeks of that, it took my mom saying "you've done more than I could have" to let me accept that I couldn't breastfeed. (I'm still a little sad two years later, though.)

Julie said...

Jessica -- I'm sorry that you're sad. I hope you know that your circumstances in no way reflect on you as a mother. I'm sure you're a wonderful mom!

Amy said...

When I was younger, far from having children, I thought there was no way I'd breast feed. When the time came to make the choice, there wasn't a second thought- I was breastfeeding my child.

I went through the up's and down's of being physically and emotionally drained, but the intimate time I shared with her will never be taken away. When I went back to work I basically was forced to start suplimenting. I didn't have the time to pump like I needed. At 8 weeks we started suplimenting and by 12 weeks she was all about the formula.
I was okay with it. I did my best and I will do it again with the next child. Take it or leave it, it's all about how you approach it and what you're comfortable. No one should even try to tell you differently.

Amy said...

When I was younger, far from having children, I thought there was no way I'd breast feed. When the time came to make the choice, there wasn't a second thought- I was breastfeeding my child.

I went through the up's and down's of being physically and emotionally drained, but the intimate time I shared with her will never be taken away. When I went back to work I basically was forced to start suplimenting. I didn't have the time to pump like I needed. At 8 weeks we started suplimenting and by 12 weeks she was all about the formula.

I was okay with it. I did my best and I will do it again with the next child. Take it or leave it, it's all about how you approach it and what you're comfortable. No one should even try to tell you differently.