The CDC did a survey of American women/babies in 2006.
73.9% were ever breastfed
43.4% were still breastfeeding at 6 months of age
22.7% were breastfeeding at 1 year of age
33.1% were exclusively breastfed through 3 months of age
13.6% were exclusively breastfed through 6 months of age
The World Health Organization recommends that women breastfeed their children up to the age of two at least. They also recommend exclusive breastfeeding until the age of six months.
These guidelines are hard to follow given that not all health care professionals and laws in the United States protect breastfeeding women. For example, during my horrible baby blues my ob suggested stopping breastfeeding, but after I told her no way she suggested pumping a supply. Why didn't she offer the second suggestion first? My pediatrician wanted to start us on solids early (she said sometime before 6 months). Given that HB was having weight issues, I complied, but many pediatricians recommend the introduction of solids at four months.
Legally, three states do not have any laws protecting the right of breastfeeding women in public. These include Nebraska, Idaho, and West Virginia. Nebraska and Idaho do have laws pertaining to jury duty. West Virginia has no laws. Most states have laws that protect the right of women to nurse in public where they are allowed to be (some also include private). Also they consider breastfeeding publicly to not be indecent exposure. Tennessee limits breastfeeding in public to children younger than a year of age despite the fact that WHO has said until two years. Three states only say that nursing in public is not indecent exposure.
The federal government allows women to nurse in public on their public property. Also for you employed breastfeeding moms, back in March, Obama signed an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act which requires employers to provide a quiet place (and not the bathroom) for women to express milk as well as reasonable breaks in which to do so. Currently before Congress is a bill that will provide even more incentives to employers to make allowances for breastfeeding including:
1. Amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect breastfeeding women from being fired or discriminated against in the workplace.
2. Provides tax incentives for businesses that establish private lactation areas in the workplace, or provide breastfeeding equipment or consultation services to their employees.
3. Provides for a performance standard to ensure breast pumps are safe and effective.
4. Allows breastfeeding equipment and consultation services to be tax deductible for families (amends Internal Revenue Code definition of "medical care").
5. Protects the privacy of breastfeeding mothers by ensuring they have break time and a private place to pump in the workplace (applies to employers with 50 or more employees, see text of legislation for details).
So we're slowly getting more laws passed to help promote and protect women. Please write your congressmen.
Sadly, breastfeeding still has issues. A young blind couple in Missouri gave birth to their daughter back in March. Erika Johnson, the young mom, attempted to breastfeed shortly after her daughter's birth. Noticing something was wrong, she called the nurse who noticed that Erika's breast had blocked Mikaela's nostrils. (Mikaela is the daughter's name.) The baby had turned blue, but Erika had immediately removed her. Out of concern the ill-trained nurse wrote in her report that she didn't think Erika or her boyfriend could take care of Mikaela properly. A caseworker interviewed the couple asking them how they would check for fever (talking thermometer), how to get her to the doctor (ambulance, bus or taxi), etc. Still this wasn't enough for the Missouri state worker and Mikaela was removed from her mother's care after two days. Mikaela was returned to the couple after 57 days; long after Erika's milk had dried up.
What bothers me most about this case is this: in my state CPS is trained to recognize the difference between intent to harm and unintentional harm. Erika, obviously, did not intend to hurt her daughter. If she did, she wouldn't have asked for help. She made a rookie mistake that any sighted person can easily do. The nurse, who also made a mistake, did not contact a lactation consultant who could have easily explained that this is common in breastfeeding. The LC could have helped Erika recognize distress and train her to feel around Mikaela's face to make sure that her airway was not blocked. Also no resources from any blind organization were asked for. Instead, Erika had to contact them herself so that she could prove that blind people do have children that they can take care of. Also instead of having the child remain with the parents, the state of Missouri said that she had to be removed or that the parents would have to employ a sighted person full time. They apparently don't have training programs that my state has.
This whole mess is wrong on so many levels. Erika is filling a suit against the state on discrimination for being blind, but I'm wondering if she could file one because her right's as a breastfeeding mother were also violated. The state did not allow her to visit her daughter often to establish a milk supply nor to allow her to visit often enough to provide pumped milk. Also I'm wondering what would have happened if this happened to a sighted person. Accidentally blocking the nostrils is actually common among sighted individual's but they usually notice it sooner.
All in all...know your rights and be vocal about them. Change the laws in your state to reflect what is good for your family and child.
Breastfeeding should be promoted more than formula feeding. Breastfeeding should be the first thing women do and formula should be what women resort to out of necessity (ie can't breastfeeding for a particular medical or psychological reason). I get upset when even my fellow environmentalists say that breast milk has toxins in it. Cans of formula are coated in BPA just like all canned goods currently are. I get upset when laws, doctors, and society look down upon breastfeeding. Inform yourself; breast is best. Don't always believe everything your pediatrician or ob say. Look at the latest studies and recommendations for yourself. Also your employer is required to allow you a place and time to pump. You can tell them that and provide them with the information. You can nurse in public despite what people say to you. A lot of lactating moms carry cards with the law printed on them so that if a person gets upset they can point them to the correct information. Problems are still going to happen which is why when you make this journey to being a parent not only do we read those parenting books but also look at the breastfeeding info out there. It's not really in any parenting book (although they do teach you how to breastfeed but not how to deal with the ramifications of doing so).
I realize that I may be preaching to the choir, but I hope that some of my relatives like my MIL who read this blog will have gleaned some information. I'm hoping that maybe when they see someone who is nursing struggling or choosing not to nurse for all the wrong reasons they can help them. And that's the point. As my mom said, knowledge is power. People can take stuff from you but they can't take the stuff out of your head. At least not yet, right?
I hope that you enjoyed the week. Sorry about the post from Monday. It's still in my laptop which has been a nightmare to get the part. I guess we'll just have to live without it for now. Thanks.