All the advocacy about breastfeeding exists to show moms that it is best for their baby. Formula gets their fair share of advertisements, why shouldn't breastfeeding be talked about as openly. It is the better choice if you are able to make that choice. And the reality is that worldwide the lives of 830,000 babies could be saved each year if moms breastfed immediately after birth.
That staggering number comes from a report from Save the Children. This is why there has to be advocacy. This is why hospitals need to "lock up" formula. This is why we should at least try to nurse right after birth. Lives depend on it. The littlest lives. The lives of our children.
The "Superfood for Babies" report cites four main reasons that prevent more moms from successfully breastfeeding, including and perhaps most importantly during the "power hour" right after birth. Babies should be born and brought immediately to breast whenever possible. But there are things that prevent that and breastfeeding at all from happening. They are:
1. Cultural and community pressures.
2. The health worker shortage.
3. Lack of maternity legislation.
4. Aggressive marketing of formula.
Maybe American moms are thinking that our babies don't face the same issues as those in a developing country, but the benefits of breastmilk and especially colostrum are unbeatable. They are life-saving. Carolyn Miles, President and CEO of Save the Children reminds that a baby's immune system is jump-started when able to have the first milk -- colostrum. And being successful at the start of life leads to higher rates of moms exclusively breastfeeding for six months, the AAP's recommended minimum. Breastfeeding for at least six months gives your child a healthier start and is shown to increase the ability to fight off sickness, obesity, and reduces the chances of malnutrition and disease. We want those benefits for our children.
Cultural and community pressures can be addressed for everyone as American women face the fact that most believe breastfeeding in public is an obscene act. That sends the message that it's shameful. Something that should be hidden. That is the opposite of supporting breastfeeding moms when they need it, and that includes health workers -- lactation consultants and hospitals that offer these types of services to help women succeed. To help babies be healthier -- shouldn't that be what a hospital should always be interested in doing?
We all remember the Time magazine article overly concerned about how long moms breastfeed their children when we really should be concentrating on helping moms start to breastfeed their newborns. How many talk shows and mainstream media attention did that cover get? People were freaking out that a mom was still nursing her 4-year-old. We should really focus on what's important here and realize that breast is best. It just is. This doesn't mean moms who formula-feed are doing something wrong -- they aren't. This just means there is a better "product" they should try and if they can, they deserve the support to succeed. This is also why Save the Children created their own magazine cover to really shed light on the breastfeeding issues that are most critical. I dare Time to do a cover story to help moms succeed, to put it out there how breast milk is so beneficial to a baby that it saves 830,000 lives a year.
We also need to fix our maternity leave crisis -- and it is a crisis because the lack of it prevents moms from being able to breastfeed. Working moms don't have a fair shot at breastfeeding.
We also need hospitals on board with this because not everyone can or wants to give birth at home. A hospital birth shouldn't mean c-section and formula. This is our health care system -- they should be working for us, giving us the best, giving our children the best and not furthering a back-alley deal with the formula companies. This is why there was the so-called formula ban, but many failed to see its benefits and instead saw it as an attack on moms who choose to formula feed. This is just not the case. It's about saving lives. Instead of giving formula free advertisement, we should have hospitals that are Baby-Friendly and working with a full-on breastfeeding support system for moms.
We can support moms locally and we can support moms globally. This means we are supporting the lives of children everywhere. This should be a priority for everyone. It's our future.
Save the Children created a petition asking Americans to tell Secretary of State John Kerry to renew our commitment to 1,000 Days Call to Action, the global nutrition initiative that expires in June. Babies deserve to be healthy. Mothers deserve our support. You can sign the petition here.
Do you think we need to be doing more to support moms who want to breastfeed? Are you shocked by the number of lives breastfeeding can potentially save?
Image courtesy Save the Children