Is Breastfeeding a Medical Issue?

Christie Haskell

I read a news story recently where a breastfeeding support and resource center called Upper Breast Side in NYC was engaged in a battle over the right to merely exist. They fought the local board over a sidewalk, then the front door, and now they're battling because in addition to the breastfeeding medical counseling they provide -- what the building is zoned for -- they're being told they're trying to run retail by selling breastfeeding supplies.

They offers tons of services, from a latch-on clinic, pumping help, and yes, they sell breastfeeding supplies. They're no more trying to "hide" a retail business under the guise of a community help center than a dermatologist office trying to "hide" a retail business in which they sell lotions and creams.

But the biggest issue here is the fact that breastfeeding isn't treated like an actual medical issue, and it absolutely is.

You can go to the dermatologist, like I said, and meet up with a medical professional who can give you assistance with skin care, who can recommend (and often sell) you products, who also has products given to him by representatives that he can give out samples of or sell as well. You can pay out of pocket, or even have insurance cover your visits if you really have a problem that requires their medical expertise.

And I'm not talking about the more complex issues that dermatologists handle, by the way, such as melanomas. I'm talking about even something like uncontrolled acne, advice on ridding of blackheads, or how to reduce the appearance of the scar where you accidentally cut your hand a couple months ago.

Breastfeeding assistance usually isn't covered by any insurance, and the lactation consultants in hospitals often have very little lactation training. Why aren't we treating the certified, trained lactation consultants the same way we treat any other medical professional? Heck, some insurances are covering chiropractic and acupuncture which are still considered by some to be questionable -- there's nothing questionable about the affect breastfeeding has on the mother AND baby -- not doing so has health, ecological, and even some psychological ramifications for the rest of baby and mom's lives. We need to have GOOD, trained lactation consultants at least as accessible as Viagra, for god's sake.

With the government pushing so much to have women breastfeed put not providing them any way to do it and in fact putting up Institutional Booby Traps that can prevent them from succeeding, it's no surprise our rates are so low, is it? A building with trained lactation consultants, breastfeeding workshops, pumps and help using them, with nursing bras and pillows and breastfeeding books should be treated like a medical office. AND should be covered by insurance, not accused of trying to just hide a mommy boutique under the "guise of help."

Imagine if Mom has her baby in the hospital, chooses to breastfeed, and then has a one week postpartum appointment at the lactation consultant's office, covered by insurance. How many moms would that help?

Do you think treating breastfeeding more like any other health profession would help boost rates?

Image via shoothead/Flickr

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