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Stop Fighting About Breastfeeding: Lives Depend on It

IMG_0407  You're pregnant. You've already decided you're going to nurse your child.

The baby is born. He's cleaned and swaddled before you even get to hold him. And you discover that even though something is natural doesn't mean it's easy.

You see two lactation consultants and they give you conflicting information on which hold to use and how to get your baby to stay awake long enough to latch. You're still waiting for your milk.

You've got six weeks before heading back to work. In the meantime, you're freaked out because you've heard all about "nipple confusion" so you don't want to give your baby bottles yet, but know you'll have to once you go back to work.

Your mother thinks you should quit nursing anyway. YOU got formula and you turned out just fine, she says.

And you're so, so tired. All you do is nurse and pump, nurse and pump. Your husband convinces you to go out to dinner and you try to nurse the baby in the restaurant, but after a few nasty looks you get self-conscious. The baby cries. You leave.

Then you go to the pediatrician and you're told he hasn't gained enough weight. And you really need to supplement with formula.

So you do. When you go back to work, you decide you'll keep him on formula.

You're not alone.

Seventy-four percent of women planned on nursing in 2009, according to a report card by the CDC. But only 33 percent were still exclusively breastfeeding at three months and only 14 percent at six months.

Why should we care?

report published this week in the journal Pediatrics stated, "The United States incurs $13 billion in excess costs annually and suffers 911 preventable deaths per year because our breastfeeding rates fall far below medical recommendations."

That's scary stuff. But let me be clear: lack of effort is not the reason why women are not as successful breastfeeding as they should be.


It’s because our society does not support it. And it’s not just evidenced in ridiculous tweets like the one Wednesday from Paul Frank (@Paulfrank_LA) that said “Having your whole boob out and breastfeeding in our store #NOTOKAYATALL.

Paul Frank then deleted the tweet and offered an apology (which did not include #thatwouldbeillegal). But it’s too late. Once it’s out in the twittersphere, it’s out there. Forever.

The good news is that maybe it leads to some healthy debate. Because when it comes to being a nursing mother, you need all the help you can get.

I nursed all three of my kids, but I only made it to a year-and-counting with my last one (after an extreme elimination diet) because each had breastmilk allergy. I can't even count how many random people told me that such an allergy doesn't exist, that I was simply trying to justify my early weaning.

So the thing that really gets me? It's how unkind we can be to each other. It’s not a competition, ladies. I don’t want to hear all the sacrifices, all the hoops you jumped through, in order to nurse your child, and how if we just TRIED HARDER it would’ve worked. 

That is missing the point entirely. Get angry about the important things: How six weeks of maternity leave is not always enough time to establish nursing. How not all states require employers to provide a private room to pump or legislate the right to breastfeed in public like California does.
It's about education. Hospitals that support breastfeeding - including skin-to-skin contact after birth - and who give ongoing support in those first critical weeks. OB-GYNs who explain that the fluid you get to support an epidural can actually impede milk production so you can make an informed decision.
And yes, it’s also about silly tweets and the stink eye when we nurse in public (because, really, boobs that provide nourishment for a human being? Obscene! Boobs as the theme of a restaurant? HOT!) and wondering when some people will just grow up.
But really? It’s about us. Women. Mothers. Using our considerable power and influence, whether it be through social media, government, as consumers (will YOU still shop at Paul Frank?), employers, employees or, really, any avenue that can affect change. To make our country a place where a woman who chooses to breastfeed can get all the education, support and protection necessary to be successful.
What we CANNOT do is judge each other. Our babies' lives depend on it.

This is an original OC Moms Blog post by Cheryl Rosenberg, who reminds you we're all in this Mommy stuff together at SpecialSauce in the House<


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