September 27th, 2013

planet

promoting breastfeeding: I'm not sure we're asking the right questions

Olive is almost five months old and we're still nursing. Not sure if I'll keep it up for 18 months like I did with Josie, but it's going well so far so who knows.

I've been thinking more about breastfeeding and my attitudes towards it because it's a big issue in communities of mothers - who breastfeeds, how we can get more women to breastfeed, how we can keep formula samples out of hospitals and let everyone nurse in public and get lactation rooms in every company for women to pump, etc.

But in my circle of friends, the women who stopped breastfeeding didn't do it because the "breast is best" posters weren't colorful enough. They quit because the milk just wasn't there. Or the baby who wouldn't latch no matter how many consultants they saw. Or they had medical issues that weren't compatible with breastfeeding. In other words it wasn't about society... they quit because breastfeeding was not working.

Online, I come across rare stories of someone whose friend-of-friend-of-friend said she wouldn't breastfeed because it just seemed gross or inconvenient, but those are the exception. Most women I know try to breastfeed. And what separates me from them? I'm pretty lazy. Not terribly educated on the topic... I went to a one-hour class before we had Josie, that was the extend of it. I don't own a $1000 hospital grade pump.

It's just dumb luck. My babies both came out and latched on like they had nothing better to do. And then there was the milk, one might even say excessive milk.

So how do we get more women to breastfeed? I think we're coming up with the wrong answers. Or maybe the wrong questions! After all, how important is breastfeeding? The world is full of doctors, lawyers, particle physicists etc, who were raised on formula. Should we be "encouraging" it?

And does it do you any good to encourage something that people may not be physically capable of? It's like telling every kid to practice his basketball dunking skills... give him a basketball, sure, let him try for the first few days of practice. But then encourage him to move on! Have a great passing game, kid, there are probably scholarships for that too.

Or maybe we need to find more medical solutions. Is it just me, or are we faced with very limited options when the milk supply drops? There's some teas, and fenugreek. Some cookie recipes.

Anyway, in my current discussion forums people randomly post up articles like this one: 85% of mothers plan to breastfeed for three months, only 32% make it. And the comments are along the lines of "oh how sad, our society just makes it too easy to switch to formula!" It does? People just think it's "too easy" to start using some expensive stuff you have to go to the store and pay for? No, I suspect there's more to this issue. And maybe most breastfeeding moms overlap too much with the hippies who love nature, and don't think they need scientists in a lab to solve a problem... but I love scientists in labs. Dear scientists: do we need to make breastfeeding easier? If we do, is anyone working on it? Because I think the demand is out there! Just not the supply.