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Monday, December 05, 2005A new study appearing in Pediatrics suggests that if American women received more support during the days and weeks after giving birth, they would be more likely to establish successful breastfeeding relationships with their babies. While that may be a surprise to researchers, it's nothing new to moms.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a new policy statement on breastfeeding this past February. It reads:
"Although economic, cultural, and political pressures often confound decisions about infant feeding, the AAP firmly adheres to the position that breastfeeding ensures the best possible health as well as the best developmental and psychosocial outcomes for the infant."
The new study, written by the CDC's Indu Ahluwalia, included more than 32,000 U.S. mothers that gave birth in 2000 or 2001. The study found that half of the mothers in the study breastfed for longer than four weeks, 13 percent breastfed for up to four weeks, 4 percent gave up breastfeeding after less than one week and a third of mothers did not attempt to breast feed at all.
The thing that upset me about the study was the reasons given for quitting:
1.) Sore, cracked or bleeding nipples
2.) Not producing enough milk
3.) Baby had difficulty breastfeeding
4.) Baby "not satisfied" with breastmilk
1.) Sore, cracked or bleeding nipples are the result of a baby with an improper latch. That tells me that women are heading home from the hospital without having had proper help from a lactation consultant. Breastfeeding, while natural, doesn't always come naturally to a mother and baby. It takes hard work and the help of a skilled lactation consultant to make sure that a mother and baby have established a good latch. It's that lack of support and education that often leads to problems of sore and bleeding nipples and to mothers that understandably give up in frustration from the pain.
2.) and 4.) Not producing enough milk is rarely a "real" issue. While it happens, nine times out of ten a perceived lack of milk is either the result of supplementing with formula (which causes the baby to want to nurse less which keeps milk from coming in properly to meet demand) or is simply a problem of a Dr. that doesn't understand that breastfed babies often gain weight less quickly than their formula fed counterparts.
3.) Babies DO have difficulty breastfeeding. So do mom's. It's hard, hard work. That's why it's essential that moms leave the hospital with easy access to help from someone skilled in the art of nursing. Whether it's with a phone number for a La Leche League representative or with the number of a lactation consultant, new moms need to be prepared mentally and physically for the challenges of establishing a nursing relationship with their child.
Having gone through these issues myself when I tried to nurse Nora, I completely understand why women give up. Bottles of formula sitting on the shelf and repeated "encouragement" from well-meaning friends and family make it all too easy to give up and switch to formula. In other words, exactly when women should be encouraged to stick with it and should be getting industrial strength emotional support, they are instead bombarded with messages of failure disguised as "understanding." That's not to say that people don't have the best of intentions and it is of course essential for moms to keep their sanity if they are going to be good parents, but it is to say that the United States has a long way to go before every mother is given the support and encouragement she needs to breastfeed if she wants to.
Labels: Pumping Milk