In the United States, around 75 percent of women initiate breastfeeding at the time of birth. But not all women stick with it and the percentage who continue to nurse drops very, very quickly.
While it's easy to point fingers at moms, saying they didn't do enough to breastfeed, that's not fair, nor true. The biggest reasons moms end up not meeting that goal is lack of support from family members, friends, and medical professionals. And so many moms get bad and damaging information from even the most well-meaning people. Despite the push for recognition of the health ramifications for baby and mom, we still live in a culture that is unsupportive of breastfeeding moms.
The Analytical Armadillo had a poll on her blog asking if women had ever felt pressured to stop breastfeeding. The results came in at a sad 70 percent of moms saying yes, they had. While people may say that there's so much pressure to breastfeed ... it's really just not true. There's a tiny, tiny movement that really does try, sure, but outside of that, it's nothing but what Best for Babes has named "Booby Traps."
Institutional Booby Traps include:
- your obstetrician handing you formula-company sponsored information
- the labor and delivery nurses giving your baby formula or glucose without your permission
- the pediatrician who knows nothing about breastfeeding telling you you need to supplement because your baby is small ... or big
- your insurance company refuses to help pay for a lactation consultant or galactogogues (herbs that up your supply)
- hospitals, doctors offices and even maternity clothes stores selling your information to companies that then send you "free" formula without your permission
Cultural Booby Traps include:
- women telling other women to hide in a bathroom to breastfeed which only makes it feel shameful and impossible to get out and live a normal life (I'm looking at you Bethenny Frankel!)
- family and friends suggesting formula every single time you struggle a little
- your mother insisting you're doing it wrong/not feeding enough/feeding too much
- support groups that are afraid of saying that supplementing can hurt supply if not done with care, for fear of being attacked by those who choose to supplement
- horror stories or experiences with strangers yelling at nursing women
There's a lot working against breastfeeding moms, and that's not even half of it. I asked myself what kind of pressure moms had had to stop breastfeeding on the Facebook page of my personal blog, Daily Momtra, and some of the responses for the ladies there help shine even more light on the pressure breastfeeding moms face in a non-breastfeeding supportive culture:
- My son will be 2 months on the 13th and I'm already being asked when I'm going to stop.
- I get it now and he's only 9 months old! "you're STILL breast feeding? When are you going to stop? When he can ask for it?"
- I was asking for breastfeeding friendly medications and the nurse told me "Your daughter is a year old you don't need to nurse her anymore, so no we will not give you different medications."
- When my twin boys were born at 34 weeks, the pediatrician wasn't happy with their weight gain. ... I expressed my desire to breastfeed them and she said "Well, I see sick breastfed babies all the time! My daughter was formula fed and at the top of her class!" She also told me that nursing twins was such a hassle.
- When my 3 year old was a couple weeks old I was told to stop because it would make me too tired to take care of my other kids. The baby would be spoiled. That it would make it impossible to add cereal to the bottle so I needed to get him on one by a month so he could have it.
- I got pressure from my OB when I was in my 1st trimester with my 2nd. She insisted I was going to dry up, but I hadn't.
Worst of all, not only have most breastfeeding moms been pressured to stop breastfeeding and have been Booby Trapped in many different ways before and after birth, but 80 percent regret not breastfeeding longer. Generally, it's because of one of these Booby Traps getting in the way. Those voices in the back of your head, or right there in your face, constantly telling you to stop, wean, your supply sucks, a bottle won't hurt DO affect success and confidence that your body is doing what it should.
Despite claims that breastfeeding is pushed everywhere, the amount of real, true, helpful support for it is few and far between -- pressure not to far outweighs the pressure to keep going.
What kind of pressure did you face about breastfeeding or weaning your baby?
Image via viralbus/Flickr