Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Breastfeeding Backlash

The stigmas attached to breastfeeding in industrial nations and the dangers they pose

When my first child was just several months old I did what so many working women do – I stopped breastfeeding because I just didn’t feel capable of doing both. Even though I worked for a very large company, there were no policies for breastfeeding moms, no places in which to discreetly pump during the day, and no extended breaks allowed in order to feed my daughter if she was brought to the office. There were no mothers in my circle of friends and co-workers who breastfed after returning to work, if at all. I felt as if I had failed in that one job that as a mother I was supposed to be able to do.

Breastfeeding, although recommended by the World Health Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and other leading organization as the most complete and best way to feed infants, is still not accepted in so many modern cultures. When it is accepted, it is not always supported and encouraged.

Just as recently as December of 2011, a breastfeeding sit-in was declared in Target stores across America in response to one mother’s reports of ill-treatment after she chose to breastfeed her baby in the store. Employees apparently asked her to move from her spot in the women’s clothing section of the store where she was breastfeeding her baby, completely covered with a blanket, to an even more remote location – a dressing room.

Those who do find offense to breastfeeding appear to be most specifically adverse to it when it is done where they know it is happening. It doesn’t even have to be something that is seen – it can be as innocent as a mother swaddling her baby under a blanket where not even a single tiny toe is visible. The naysayers appear to be afraid that even a glimpse of breast flesh might be seen. Ironic, in a country where you can’t go to the mall without seeing teenagers dressed in less clothing than I wear to the beach, and where movies and television commercials are flooded with more skin than I ever revealed breastfeeding.

The Stigmas of Breastfeeding

In third world countries breastfeeding is a necessity and a completely accepted and encouraged aspect of raising children. However, in industrial nations such as the United States of America, breastfeeding is still looked at as something that is done in large part by 4 groups of moms:

  • Throwback hippies (I saw this with all of the love for a generation from which I come)
  • Natural pathogen moms who wouldn’t ever consider manufactured foods of any kinds
  • Working moms who have more demanding things to do with their time
  • Those who are too poor to purchase formula and the necessary supplies

Moms who might consider breastfeeding are often put off by several stereotypes, stigmas, and unfortunate concerns.

  • Formula, like wine, is not cheap, especially the good stuff. There is an undercurrent in American society that breastfeeding is something that those who can’t afford formula choose to do.
  • Breastfeeding is icky (according to some). There is a stigma that it is gross and perverted to have an infant so dependent on what society has declared to be a purely sexual body part. Our “modernized” society has melded breastfeeding and sexual imagery – two totally separate issues – and has somehow declared breastfeeding in public to be inappropriate. Yet parents can yell at their children during tee-ball games, belittle their children for not doing well enough in school, and ignore their children as they spend more time texting than talking. Somehow our definition of inappropriate has gone askew.
  • Breastfeeding reduces your social life. Nothing says “new mom” like when you are out with friends to dinner and a baby nearby begins to cry and you spring a leak in a natural response.
  • Breastfeeding your baby means you won’t be able to return to work at full capacity and pursue career goals with vigor.

Yes – there are unfortunately some truths to these stigmas, but only because society hasn’t caught up to reality. They shouldn’t be stigmas and issues that stop moms from providing this wonderful and natural source of nutrition for their babies.

  • Breastfeeding does mean restructuring your social life – but so does becoming a parent in general. Good friends at dinner won’t think less of you if you need to pump-n-dump – those who do probably aren’t worth dinner plans anyway.
  • Even though the laws are changing, they are still not current with world health opinions and endeavors. Working outside of the home will be more challenging as a breastfeeding mom. You will need to plan ahead and let your employer know how often you will need to pump and work with your employer to find a suitable place to do this and store the milk. It won’t always be easy, but it will be worth your time and your infant’s health and relationship with you. Don’t let it be something you regret like I do.

When my 2nd child was just days old I became very ill with a high fever and signs of a bacterial infection, and was told I needed to be hospitalized for a round of IV antibiotics. I immediately saw my hopes and plans of breastfeeding for at least the first year of his life begin to fail as I hadn’t even been able to breastfeed long enough to establish a pattern with my newborn – until my stubborn Irish side kicked in and I refused to be admitted to the hospital without my son allowed in my room so I could breastfeed. The hospital staff relented and I was admitted for 3 days of treatment with him at my side.

That baby, and his brothers who followed, were all breastfed for at least the first year of their lives, despite the roadblocks and stigmas that modern society tends to place on the choice. Don’t let the breastfeeding backlash stop you from providing your child with the best nutritional and developmental start possible – even if you aren’t Irish.

Related posts:

  1. Using Kangaroo Mother Care to Support Breastfeeding
  2. Breastfeeding in Public – How to Make It Work
  3. Breastfeeding: Challenging and Really Doable

View full post on Parenting Tips For Raising Successful Kids |


2 Responses to “Breastfeeding Backlash”
  1. Chris Oldenburg says:

    It is unfortunate – and sometimes it feels like we as moms are still in high school era cliques where we have to make our decisions based on “group think” and what is cool or acceptable. I just hope other moms can learn from my regrets (and perserverance) and breastfeed because it is the best nutritional option for babies, as well as a wonderfully amazing way for attachments to form. And hopefully the rest of society can catch up with one of the most natural parts of mothering. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Emma White (@TheRealSupermum) says:

    The stigma that sadly is attracted to breastfeeding still grows strong today and is still one of the main reasons many of us mums choose not to breastfeed.

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