Support Breastfeeding! -- Surgeon General Call to Action

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The Surgeon General, Regina Benjamin, has earned my love yesterday when her first official Call to Action was all about improving the country's rates of breastfeeding by eliminating obstacles.

Amongst many, many things (which I will be writing more about), family members were some of the obstacles mentioned -- especially fathers and grandmas (the mother's mother).

Above all else, these two people hold special sway over a mom's confidence in herself, confidence in her support system, and even are the most likely to sabotage her breastfeeding efforts or education.

So, we need to educate Dad and Grandma on breastfeeding too.

It's common knowledge that women with family members who've successfully breastfed are much more likely to breastfeed themselves, and the longer their friends breastfed, the more likely the woman is to breastfeed longer herself. The same holds true for a woman's partner, her mother, and her other family members.

In the Call to Action information, this point is highlighted (emphasis mine):

Partners are particularly important because their approval means so much to a mother, and her partner is often a mother’s primary source of support. Although fathers want the best for their family, they may become jealous or resentful or get the feeling that they will not be able to bond with their child if their partner chooses to breastfeed. The baby’s grandmothers are also very influential because mothers who have recently given birth rely on them for support and advice. To make breastfeeding successful, mothers need the support and encouragement of all of these people.

See? Grandma and Dad are huge factors in a mom's success, education, support, and decisions, whether she admits it or not.

Many a woman has said how her mom couldn't breastfeed so she can't, how her mother breastfed three kids so she KNOWS what's she's talking about when she says her daughter's body doesn't work, or that Dad wants to be included so he's giving bottles, or he doesn't like her breastfeeding. People talk about the influence from these two people a TON. So focusing on them is a really, really important step, one I'm glad the Surgeon General addressed.

The proposal for getting these family members on board includes educating them the same as educating moms. They should attend breastfeeding education classes and watch videos with you. The importance of breastfeeding needs to be emphasized to them as well so that they can help advocate for you and know where to turn if and when you need help. Yes, Dads should know how to get ahold of the La Leche League Leader in your area, but first he has to know they even exist.

A special place for Dad needs to be explained often as well, so they don't feel left out. Many women think their husband needs to feed the baby to bond, and we need to show that he doesn't -- there are many, many special Daddy things he can do, and ways he can support mom and baby, and even unique jobs ONLY he can do that help him feel that he is a part of the breastfeeding team.

As one dad put it, "The mother is the quarterback of team baby, you are the waterboy."

Well, we want them to feel a little more important than the waterboy, but they do need to know their place on the team is needed, special, and important -- and never needs to include him being the one to actually feed the baby. He needs to know how some phrases are detrimental, how some are amazingly helpful.

Grandma does too. No more, "He'd sleep longer if you'd give him a bottle," or "At this age, YOU were sleeping through the night, you know." All of that is damaging.

Here on The Stir, Jeanne talked before about how fathers can end up being the deciding factor in a breastfeeding relationship, depending on how they choose to support or not support their wives, and she's totally right. If the people closest to you, who you rely on the most, aren't there for you or are constantly undermining you or giving you bad information, you'd be incredibly lucky to succeed.

So, yay for the Call to Action's focus on getting families on board too! Moms certainly need the help!

Did you feel supported or sabotaged by your mother or partner in your breastfeeding efforts?


Image via kkbutterfly01/Flickr

in the news, natural parenting, breastfeeding, baby sleep

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Laura West

Great job surgeon general. I especially love The Man Nurse Diaries take on dads & breastfeeding: http://mannursediaries.blogspot.com/2009/11/dads-prefer-breastfeeding.html

momof... momof030404

I felt supported in what ever decision I chose to make with MY body and as I have had THREE children and only one had (about 3 weeks of) breasts milk and all are hardly ever sick, honor roll kids, with zero weight issues I am going to go with people need to lay off the BF mom GUILT and just let the MOM CHOOSE. The WORST thing about the hospital was the crap I got from the lactation nurse when I CHOSE not to BF my youngest. My choice. My child. NOT BF WILL NOT KILL YOUR CHILD. Where are all the pro choice people on this and keeping the govt off of/out of our bodies?

Eliza... ElizaStephen

I'm glad the surgeon general spoke out on this, Not only is it no secret that 'breast is best' and any doctor will tell you this, but how many recalls of breast milk do you know of??? Oh, none? That's right, not one. How many recalls of formula have you heard of over the last several years? I don't understand trusting some big company to make powdered milk for your newborn unless that is the only possible way they can thrive. There are standards for these companies allowing a margin of error and allowable contaminants...Hmm, think about that. Your body makes perfect sustenance for your child, why wouldn't you allow your child to have the best from day one??

momof... momof030404

Not everyones body makes the "perfectstuff" I know quite a few women who suffered through MONTHS of tears and worry and trauma due to this little untruth. And upon realizing that it was THEIR milk that was causing their baby so many problems felt they had FAILED as mothers  and were being judged by all the BF crazies who gave them ugly looks or the CRAZIEST who felt the need to PREACH at them in public places about the harm they were doing by bottle feeding. Again...the proof is in the pudding. I didnt BF. I took my kids to the dr ONCE lest cold season for illness and NONE this season. My cousin who BF ALL her kids has been at the dr counteless times. And this is the case for many many women I know...

momto... momtothemax2910

I was totally supported by family as were many I know. It was the pediatrician that sabotaged breastfeeding for some friends of mine. Jump on that too please Surgeon General.

jalaz77 jalaz77

Supported here. My hubby was all about it being good for baby AND cheap : ) My mom never breast fed and she said she thinks it is awesome that I have done it for all of 3 of my babies (still going strong). She said she wished she would have done it herself. My MIL bfd my hubby so she understands. So thank god for my support team. The working environment STILL needs improvement. BFing would be soooo much easier not having to pump ever! Pumping is great for weaning then baby can continue receiving BM down the road even though you are not physically BFing.

mtnma... mtnmama111

Supported by both- my father was very supportive too. He was dying of cancer and I drove up weekly with my newborn to help take care of him (he went fairly quickly) and was embarrassed to sit there with my boob out in front of my father but he wouldn't hear of it!!! Very supportive!

mtnma... mtnmama111

Seriously??^^^^ you moms up there are on your high horse about not feeling supported in your decision? This is about support for breastfeeding moms.

Mayhe... MayhemMatriarch

I was supported wholeheartedly by my husband and my mother in law {who also breastfed and was of immense help}, my mother was supportive up to a point. Once my children hit one, the barrage of "You're STILL breastfeeding?" took over. But her words really didn't sway me.


Misinformation was my worst enemy and biggest booby trap.

Shanin22 Shanin22

This couldn't be more true in my experience. I had trouble with latching and getting my milk in with my first child. I know now, both of these problems could have been overcome. But with my husband wanting to give our son a bottle and my mothers continued insistance that "you were fine with a bottle, he will too" "he'll let you sleep longer" "he'll put on more weight" and so on.... I gave up.


With my second child I was blessed to have a friend who was an avid breast feeder and I had spent much time with her and her nursing baby before my daughter was born. My husband and mother hadn't changed much but it was up to me to stick to my guns and inform them. 


The best thing I ever did? Had them in the room during all my visits from the lactation consultant. The LC even gave them both jobs to help me while I breastfed (DH felt very important, lol). I almost made it to a year breastfeeding, in part because of the changed opinion and support of my husband and mom.

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