Celebrating National Breastfeeding Month
I am a certified Lactation Consultant and I sought out a Lactation Consultant when I hit some rough spots while breastfeeding my son.
Does that surprise you?
Breastfeeding is natural and beautiful, but neither of those things mean that it will come naturally or that it will be easy. I told the woman who served as my Lactation Consultant that I was embarrassed to call her and she comforted me by saying, “Well, I’m an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and I still used a Lactation Consultant for all three of my babies. Sometimes you just need reassurance and a supportive person in your corner.” I am so grateful she was so candid and supportive, not to mention incredibly helpful during some tough times.
As we celebrate National Breastfeeding Month, it’s important to continue to learn and support mothers in their breastfeeding experiences. While the first week of August is World Breastfeeding Week, the last week of August is Black Breastfeeding Week. There are added complexities for black women when it comes to breastfeeding, and the support they need urgently addressed if we are to change historical patterns and lift them up as they face many challenges with breastfeeding their babies.
A Glimpse Into Recent Breastfeeding History
“In 1959 marketing campaigns provided inexpensive formula to hospitals and pediatricians for endorsements. By the early 1970s, over 75% of American babies were fed on formulas, almost entirely commercially produced.” – Fomon, Samuel J. (2001). Infant Feeding in the 20th Century: Formula and Beikost.
Formula was developed in order to decrease infant mortality rates in the late 1800’s. If a baby’s mother died during childbirth (which was common), a wet nurse was used to feed the infant. But if that wasn’t available, there was no way to feed the child properly and they often didn’t survive. Formula was an amazing medical development that was for emergencies.
In the 1960s and 70s, there was a formula boom fueled by marketing companies that promoted formula as nourishment for healthier, more vibrant babies. This shift still affects our current generation’s ability to breastfeed. With more and more mothers bottle feeding formula, less girls grew up with breastfeeding as the norm. They missed out on watching their aunts and own mothers breastfeeding their siblings and cousins, gaining tips and support within the family community. This experience gap caused young mothers the great challenge of being on their own to figure out breastfeeding.
Fast forward to the last couple of decades and breastfeeding still remains a private matter in many homes and definitely in mainstream public culture. I’ve had people in my past comment about breastfeeding being a natural process that women had been doing for centuries, so why are there classes and consultants? It can’t be that hard, right?
I’ve personally heard numerous times from couples that they read all the books and took all the courses (birth class, infant care, CPR, etc.) to prepare for the birth of their baby but they didn’t take the breastfeeding class because it seemed unnecessary. Just put the baby on the boob, right? This comment is almost always followed up by, “That was a mistake. I wish we’d have taken that class.”
For black mothers, their complicated history with breastfeeding goes back much further. You can read more about it in my recent blog post, which includes a reading list to learn more.
Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s easy. But we have this expectation that breastfeeding will come naturally, easily, and that if it doesn’t, then there’s something wrong with the mom.
This is a stigma Work & Mother aims to adjust.
Work & Mother Is Committed To Normalize Breastfeeding
Work & Mother is committed to normalizing breastfeeding and spreading resources, information, and support networks with the hopes of making breastfeeding more feasible for those who wish to do it.
We are doing this by:
- Putting Work & Mother in locations that serve all types of working mothers from all types of backgrounds
- Hiring a diverse team that represents and understands mothers from all backgrounds and cultures
- Regularly blogging about recent events and learnings on topics that matter to moms.
Breastfeeding Month Challenge
This month, our team is issuing a breastfeeding month challenge. We want everyone – men, women, working professionals, students, mothers and fathers, friends, and allies – to reach out to at least one new mom friend and ask if there’s any support they can provide to help them achieve their breastfeeding goals.
Let the new mom tell you what she needs, but some ideas that might help are:
- Set up a meal train where family and friends can drop off dinners to remove the meal prep and planning from the new mother while she focuses on breastfeeding.
- Provide tips and answer questions if you are a mother who has breastfed before.
- Visit the new family (once it’s safe to do so) and offer to hold the baby while the new mom gets a nap in. Breastfeeding is physically draining, and for moms with babies who don’t yet sleep well through the night, an extra nap could really help.
Like anything else, with practice and experience, breastfeeding gets easier. But support is necessary, so don’t feel ashamed to reach out to friends and family for support.