Anne sat down this week to respond to an op-ed in the Los Angeles Time that raises the question: Why is breastfeeding both healthy and free, and yet limited to mothers of privilege? It's an important question that we hope everyone will stop and consider for a moment.
Back in July, author Jennifer Grayson wrote an op-ed in the L.A. Times expressing a frustration I have heard from so many mothers: Why is breastfeeding a luxury for American moms? She writes, "Unfortunately, there is a sharp socioeconomic divide when it comes to breastfeeding. Studies show a distinct correlation between parents' income and education levels and a mother’s likelihood of breastfeeding. Privilege helps a lot." Fewer than 19% of American babies will receive the six months of exclusive breastfeeding recommended for optimal growth.
It's not the first time I've seen these statistics. It made me think back on my own experience nursing my twins for the past year and why I was successfullly able to do it. A lot of the reasons are discussed in the article. First, I have a job where they are required to let me pump. And I was also able to take 4 months for maternity leave (even though most of those weeks were unpaid). But it still was far from easy.
I can see where women who have to go back to work quickly after giving birth and/or work in a job that is not conducive to pumping would not be able to breastfeed. It's absolutely fine if people decide that breastfeeding is not the right choice for their family. But it is not fine if women and families feel forced into not breastfeeding their infants.
Another barrier is access to breastfeeding support including lactation consultants. Yes, breastfeeding is natural but there is a learning curve and there can be obstacles that are difficult to overcome. Support is essential and yet not always available. This is not the problem of each mother or family. This is a cultural issue in the United States where mothers and families are not adequately supported during those critical early months of their children's lives. It seems that this issue is making its way onto the political stage, where hopefully we will see some real change in the near future to give mothers and families real choices in how they choose to feed their babies.
Read Jennifer Grayson's full article over at the Los Angeles Times
Looking for a lactation consultant? Start with a search at the International Lactation Consultant Association website