Empower women. Enable breastfeeding.
This is the theme of World Breastfeeding Week, Aug 1-7. This week is set aside to highlight breastfeeding and its vital importance to women, infants and the community. Communities across the country, including those in the tri-states, will host events to recognize breastfeeding and empower the mothers who dedicate themselves to this worthy task.
Although most women (83.2%) plan to breastfeed, only 46.9% breastfeed exclusively through 3 months old. Only 24.9% through 6 months old, despite recommendations that encourage exclusive breastfeeding through 6 months old and beyond. These rates suggest that women are not being empowered or enabled to breastfeed in the most optimal ways.
What can we do?
Learn the facts
Did you know that the more often a baby nurses, the more milk a mom makes? And just because a baby nurses often doesn’t mean the mom has a low supply? Babies instinctively seek out the breast for hunger, thirst, comfort, closeness and more. Well-intentioned families and friends can undermine a mom’s confidence by offering a bottle to “give the mom a break” or “feed the baby so they aren’t hungry.”
Rather, let the mom know you admire her dedication and patience with breastfeeding and how much you appreciate the hard work she does to feed the baby.
Offering emotional support in a positive way also helps empower women to have more confidence and belief in themselves and their bodies.
Make breastfeeding the new normal
We need to view breastfeeding as a primary physiologic function of a woman’s body and a baby’s instinctive need to eat — not just a lifestyle choice.
Breastmilk contains live cells, growth factors and digestive enzymes that promote intestinal health, a higher bioavailability of vitamins and minerals (meaning a greater percentage is absorbed) and more. Breastfeeding offers lifelong benefits, even long after the baby is done breastfeeding. If all women breastfed for six months, the United States would save more than 13 billion dollars per year in health care costs.
When you see a mom breastfeeding in public, thank her and encourage her, rather than acting shocked about what she is doing. If you see a mom struggling, give her a kind smile and offer to help if you can.
Encourage employers and business owners to support breastfeeding
More than 50% of new moms will have to return to work after the birth of their baby. Some moms have 12-18 weeks of maternity leave, while others go back to work as soon as two weeks or less after giving birth.
Employers and business owners can make a strong statement of support by offering paid maternity leave and, in many cases, paternity leave. When a mom returns to work, support to continue breastfeeding by pumping milk at work, is crucial. Employers who provide a private place for pumping and offer a supportive work environment so moms can have time to pump empower their employees. Empowered employees are loyal, committed and potentially more productive in their jobs simply because they feel supported.
Being a new breastfeeding mom means being vulnerable, and it takes great bravery to be vulnerable. Let’s honor and empower the brave women in our lives to trust their instincts, honor their truths and believe that they are enough.
World Breastfeeding Week Launch. 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 1; Statera Integrated Health and Wellness, 3375 Lake Ridge Drive. The event features community resources for pregnant and breastfeeding women, healthy snacks, giveaways and breastfeeding mini-sessions by Wartick Photography.
Big Latch-on Event. 9:30-11:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 3; City Park, N. Bonson Street, Platteville, Wis. The event features the Big Latch-on at 10:30, when moms and babies breastfeed together at the same time and are counted in the global number of breastfeeding dyads nursing at the same time. In addition, there will be Platteville community resources, giveaways and more.
Becky Franzen is a certified lactation counselor, a breastfeeding peer counselor and has completed a 300-hour internship in lactation.