World Breastfeeding Week
World Breastfeeding Week is August 1-7.
The World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life, with continued breastfeeding in addition to solid foods up to at least 12 months of age.
The truth? Breastfeeding is hard. It can be difficult physically and emotionally for new moms. According to the CDC, only 51.8% of infants are breastfed at 6 months and 30.7% of infants are breastfed at 1 year of age.
One reason mothers stop breastfeeding is a lack of support. Even though a federal law requires employers to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for one year after the child’s birth in a place other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion, many mothers stop pumping when they return to work. Some face a negative workplace, discouraging co-workers or family members, high levels of stress, or caregivers who overfeed which makes it difficult to keep up with baby’s needs.
Support is critical. My baby came early and required time in the NICU. I worked with lactation consultants daily to make sure we were on track. Once she came home, I vividly remember crying and calling the hospital for tips. They were so incredibly helpful and provided suggestions, even offering an in-home visit. I had several friends with babies around the same age. We would text each other for support while feeding in the middle of the night. I joined online groups for guidance. Check out our Facebook group, the Mob.
Some tips I received:
- If your newborn keeps falling asleep, undress them and pump their arm up and down to keep them awake
- Stay hydrated
- Breastmilk is all about supply and demand; the more baby eats or you pump, the more milk you’ll have
- Massage your breasts while nursing or pumping
I returned to work when she was 12 weeks old. Every 3 hours, I pumped. Luckily, I had a supportive boss and co-workers. My employer provided me with a comfortable lactation room with a private mini fridge. Other pumping moms and I decorated the room with photos of our babies to make it cozier. Fortunately, I was able to pump until my daughter was 15 months old. I was honest and upfront about my needs and the fact that pumping was a priority for me. While pumping, I took my laptop into the lactation room and was able to continue working during my “breaks.”
My husband often helped out by washing my pump parts and baby’s bottles at the end of the day. He always cheered me on, but assured me the if I wanted to stop, it was okay with him. Our pediatrician was also one of my biggest cheerleaders. Since my baby was a preemie, breast milk was especially beneficial. She always made me feel like I was doing a good job, and her encouragement and support really meant a lot to me. Thanks to my “village”, we were able to surpass my original breastfeeding goal of 1 year.
When Things Are Tough
On the other side, I had friends who did not have supportive bosses. They were made to feel like their time to pump was a burden and inconvenience. Some days, they were forced to wait hours to pump because meetings were scheduled back to back. I watched them struggle through bouts of mastitis, dips in their supply, and self-doubt. I tried to be their supporter and continue to encourage them while reminding them they had already accomplished so much.
At the end of the day, all that matters is that the babies are fed, happy and thriving. If a mother chooses to formula feed, we have to respect that. We don’t know their story or obstacles. Frankly, it’s no one’s business how she chooses to feed her baby. If a mom chooses to breastfeed, I hope she has a solid support team. If you are that mom and you don’t have that team, find one. Reach out to groups online. Contact La Leche League. Find out if your hospital, doula, or local parenting store offers a support group. Cotton Babies has a support group led by a certified lactation counselor.
You’ve Got This, Mama
It gets easier. The best piece of advice I ever received about breastfeeding was to never quit on a tough day. Emotions are running high, and sometimes you really want to stop. Fight through and get to a good day. If on that good day you feel like it’s no longer working, that’s fine. You won’t regret your decision if you make it with a clear head.
Remember, you are one good mom! For World Breastfeeding Week, share your best breastfeeding tips and try to give some extra support to the moms in your life.