Monday, April 19, 2010

Breastfeeding Saves Money, Saves Lives

Most parents enter labor expecting to breastfeed. Many are confronted with numerous challenges (some from the start, others as they go back to work) to continue breastfeeding throughout infancy.

A CNN news report highlights the challenges and public health importance of promoting and supporting new mothers in breastfeeding their baby throughout the first 6 months of their child's life.

This challenge makes me wonder how much of the problem is one of

  • Biology - Moms physically aren't able to breastfeed their kids.
  • Education - Moms don't know to breastfeed - exclusively - until their child reaches 6 months.
  • Awareness - Moms don't know about the benefits/risk of breastfeeding - or not - on their child's health.
  • Social - Relationships (partners, family members) and social norms interfere with moms' decision or ability to breastfeed.
  • Structural/Political - Policies and structural factors like break time at work inhibit moms from being able to breastfeed or pump throughout the day.
As a quick aside: the new health care reform law makes it mandatory for employers to provide breaks to female workers who are lactating (i.e. breastfeeding). I expect that will begin to address some of the structural barriers mentioned above!


Kelsey Woodruff said...

After reading this post and the CNN article, I went looking for more statistics and was shocked. The amount of people who breastfeed through six months is terribly low. Here are statistics by state from Kaiser Foundation:

As a pregnant woman, I feel that the culture now simultaneously pressures women to breastfeed (in a good way) and yet doesn't want to accommodate breastfeeding women or have them in public view. Perhaps this contributes to the disparity between the women who start out breastfeeding (3/4) and those who follow through six months (1/4).

Katelyn Mack said...

Kelsey, Thank you so much for you comment. The Kaiser Foundation website has lots of great public health information. What struck me looking at those statistics was the great amount of variation by State.

I think there are a lot of things that can be done to both increase the rate of women that begin breastfeeding exclusively and is able to maintain that. My friend mentioned last night that in Massachusetts, even, breastfeeding in public could have been considered "indecent exposure" until just a few weeks ago!

There's a long way to go!