Why American moms struggle to breastfeed
Breastfeeding has gone in and out of style over the years in US history. But despite the fact that it is natural, many mothers experience great difficulty.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states more than half of American women who start breastfeeding give up before six months, despite recommendations to breastfeed for 12 months or more.
However, American woman are not unique in having breastfeeding issues. World-wide, common difficulties with breastfeeding exist (milk supply, latching,etc.). A recent study was done in Nambia, where 2/3 of the mothers had breastfeeding issues the first couple days. But over time, they had a 100% breastfeeding rate. The key difference – support that was given to the breastfeeding mother.
In Nambia, the grandma’s responsibility is to make sure the new mom is supported and assisted, helping her to breastfeed. Women are open about breastfeeding and learn from each other growing up, when pregnant, and while nursing.
“Many of our moms don’t have the support system that other cultures do when it comes to breastfeeding,” mentions Jill Downey, an Advocate Nurse and certified lactation consultant at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill.
“Currently, we have women here at our hospital who are the first to breastfeed in their family, as it was considered taboo or too difficult for their mothers.”
Downey states that it can be difficult for moms to find support to establish and continue breastfeeding. Short maternity leave and managing breastfeeding when returning to work are additional challenges. But she shares that it is possible for moms to get support living in the US. It just requires a little research.
- Search for a hospital that has Baby-Friendly designation, which would have breastfeeding as a top priority and a comprehensive breastfeeding support program.
- Ask if the hospital has a dedicated nurse to be there the first hour your baby is born to help you and your baby bond and breastfeed. Advocate Sherman Hospital calls this role “BFF – Baby’s First Friend”.
- Find out if your hospital has a lactation program and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC) on staff.
- Take a prenatal breast feeding class.
- Join a free lactation support group after the baby is born. There are both community and hospital-based support groups.
- Remember that many states mandate that employers must provide an enclosed safe place for mothers to pump milk to maintain their milk supply. A bathroom doesn’t qualify as a pumping space.
“The biggest challenge as a lactation consultant is building a mother’s confidence in breastfeeding,” adds Downey, “Each mother and baby have their own unique situation, so our resources, experience and possible solutions to difficulties are necessary to support that mother.”
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About the Author
Jennifer Benson, health enews contributor, is manager of public affairs and marketing at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin. She has 10+ years of community development and communication experience for non-profits in the Elgin area and has a BA in Architecture from Judson University. Outside of work you can find her planning the next adventure near water or rocks, re-organizing spaces, entertaining two needy cats, defaulting to curry or taco dinners, and growing green things wherever she can find room.