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June 13, 2006

You just try pumping breast milk in a public bathroom!

Bfeed As my twins were napping today, I made my cup of tea and thought I would have a relaxing moment while reading the New York Times. Instead, I felt those feelings of mom guilt all coming back to me. Then I started to get mad.

The article I was reading was in today’s NYT Science Times: Breast-Feed or Else.  The article began by discussing a “two-year national breast-feeding awareness campaign that included a television spot of a pregnant woman clutching her belly as she was thrown off a mechanical bull during the ladies night at a bar – and compared the behavior to failing to breastfeed”.  And the article mentioned a “proposed warning label on cans of infant formula similar to those on cigarettes by Senator Tom Harkin”. I have one thing to say to Senator Tom Harkin: "You just try pumping breast milk in a public bathroom". Maybe we should look at putting warning labels on public bathrooms to notify moms of the dangers of breastfeeding in them.

Let me start by saying that I do agree with the article's premise that breast-feeding is the ideal method for feeding and nurturing infants. I also agree that breast milk is more beneficial to infants then formula. What I don’t agree with is an educational campaign that seems be better at adding to the heavy load of mom guilt then helping mom’s provide the best nutrition possible to their infants. How about legislation on extending maternity leave for women, providing publicly funded breast-feeding consulting services, providing better places in the workplace and in the public for breastfeeding, and making sure all states are breast-feeding friendly? After you achieve that goal, then you advertise away.

The June 7 New York Times article Lactivists' Taking Their Cause, and Their Babies, to the Streets  highlighted an Ohio bill that said a woman is "entitled to breast-feed her baby in any place of public accommodation". Also listed are examples of women who were asked to leave their tables at coffee houses or restaurants and go to the bathroom to breast-feed.

There are many other challenges associated with breast-feeding. First of all, while some women can’t seem to keep the breast milk contained, some (me for example) had trouble producing enough breast milk even though I breast-feed my first son exclusively for 9 months. Those nine months included going back to work after 3 months. My company was very supportive of my situation but when I was visiting clients I still had to pump breast milk in public bathrooms. I even knew co-workers who mastered working and breastfeeding by sending ther pumped breast milk via Federal Express while on business trips. With the high cost of living in Silicon Valley, many women do not have the choice of staying home.

Even before I went back to work I tried everything to increase my milk supply: drinking lots of water, eating right, working with an expensive breast feeding consultants, fenugreek , nursing tea, classes, pumping after breast feeding, and on and on …. When I had my twins I decided to try breastfeeding exclusively and by the second week I was past exhaustion. I then decided to breast-feed, pump, and supplement with formula to help fill in the gaps. This combination worked like a charm.

Investing your heart and soul into making breast-feeding work for you and your child is the best gift you can give. But also knowing when to get help (and using formula supplements if necessary) is the ideal method for a happy mom and baby. So all I ask is that we lose the “guilt” from this public health campaign and increase the “support” for moms.

Please share your thoughts on this subject with us.