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.