Breastfeeding Ads

This New York Times article about the risks of not breastfeeding has caused a bit of a fuss — you can see some reaction on this segment of the Today Show (only opens in IE).

I think the ads are a good idea. There are moms who legitimately are unable to breastfeed, and yes, they might feel guilty. But they are far outnumbered by the moms who choose not to or are misled about their ability to breastfeed. In many lower income communities, breastfeeding still has the stigma it did in the sixties about being “for poor people” and how formula is good because “we know what’s in it.” An ad campaign telling people about the benefits of breastmilk to their babies could really help them. But it needs to be followed up with targeted help to new moms with breastfeeding.

Unfortunately, many well-meaning relatives and even pediatricians spread misinformation about breastfeeding to new mothers. 70% of moms leaving the hospital breastfeed, but only 20% are exclusively breastfeeding at six months. More often than not, some misinformation comes into play there. Here are a few tidbits off the top of my head:

The baby isn’t gaining weight quickly enough, you should supplement with formula. If the baby is LOSING weight rapidly after the first week of life, that’s one thing. But not gaining quickly enough should not lead to a quick jump to supplementing with formula. That can destroy a precarious breastfeeding relationship, even if the mom pumps during the supplemented bottles (which is very difficult to do to begin with) since pumps are so much less efficient than 99.5% of breastfeeding babies. What should the mom do, then? See a GOOD lactation consultant (IBCLC is the gold standard of certification), nurse as much as you can (go beyond demand feeding and offer the breast every 45 minutes or so when baby is awake) and start eating foods and taking supplements that boost supply. After a week or two, if the weight gain rate is still low, re-evaluate.

When I pump, I hardly get an ounce out, I’m just not making enough milk. Like I said before, pumping is very inefficient and hardly an indication of supply.

I’m just exhausted and I can’t breastfeed exclusively, it’s too tiring. My husband is going to give some bottles. Yes, parenting a newborn is exhausting. There’s no doubt about that. But breastfeeding gets easier and preparing bottles is really more work than breastfeeding in the long run. Plus, supplementing can destroy a healthy breastfeeding relationship since demand is the primary drive behind supply.

I’m on a roll! I can hardly wait for World Breastfeeding Week!

7 responses to “Breastfeeding Ads

  1. This reminded me of a girl that I’m somewhat friendly with… She’s a very poor single mother on welfare… Her son is just about 6 months old. She started out breastfeeding but by the month #3 she switched to soy formula. I’m not entirely sure why but I believe part of it had to do with the fact that she was just too tired to do it… But I swear, there is SOOOOOO much more hassle with her feeding him formula. I’ve never met a baby that eats as much as this little boy does… One of those giant cans of formula barely lasts two days. Since she doesn’t have any money, she’s completely dependant on WIC to get formula… And I know at least once she’s had whatever paperwork she needed to get formula through WIC stolen from her and called Matt and I all upset that the baby wasn’t going to have any food so we ended up buying formula for him (and I was SHOCKED how expensive it was). It would have seemed to me that continuing breastfeeding would have been a more optimal solution considering that she doesn’t have two pennies to rub together…

  2. There is so much bad breastfeeding advice out there. So many ‘experts’ who have opinions that are just that, opinions. Not grounded on facts at all. The lack of real support is a huge issue for many women in stopping, assuming they even start, breastfeeding. Women who are made to feel inadequate because baby “isn’t growing properly” or that “breastfeeding is something dirty to be done behind closed (and locked) doors” Ok, need to get off my soapbox now before I go too far!

  3. Great post, Kristen. I like it when you get on your soapbox!

  4. I was shocked, SHOCKED, recently, when I took a dinner to a family with a newborn and saw the mom giving a bottle to the baby, a matter of preference on her part.

    Why is this? I think we, as a culture, don’t reckon up the time and energy it takes to care for an infant. Moms plan to be back to work in two weeks, etc. We want instant “normalcy”.

    That being said, I remember with two of my babies, had I not been committed to breastfeeding, the initial pain and difficulty would have moved me towards the bottle.

    I agree with Amber…

  5. I’m blessed to work for a company which supports breastfeeding (I work for a health insurer- it’s just smart, really) in tangible ways (well-stocked lactation room with pump). Even so, I find it impossible to pump enough to keep Isaac in breastmilk most days I’m at work. I can’t imagine what lengths other working mothers have to go to (pumping in the car?!? Yuck!!). I just have to remind myself that I’m pumping to maintain my supply, not necessarily to feed him the whole time I’m gone. Our pediatrician has said that Isaac’s probably getting all the antibodies he needs as long as he’s getting mostly breastmilk, and when it comes right down to it, I don’t have much of a choice.

    I agree that it’s much easier to breastfeed than to mix up the formula. Paul’s not so sure ;)

  6. I agree, Kristin, great post. (I’ve been a lurker, just now coming out!)
    I’m due to be a new mom in August and am doing all my research on breastfeeding. I’m in Canada and there are rumors floating that our mat leave, already at 1 year, could be extended to 2 years. While I’m *not* holding my breath at this this happening anytime soon, I think that the reasons for it are astoundingly in favour of breastfeeding: Since the decisions made around this are almost always steeped in economics, one of the reasons is to permit moms to breastfeed longer, because in the long run, these babies will (statistically) healtier toddlers then children, etc. meaning that they will be less of a burden on our health care system.
    Talk about health benefits!
    BTW – the WHO has some great info for any others wanting to help spread the wonders of breastfeeding!

  7. The lack of real support is a huge issue for many women in stopping, assuming they even start, breastfeeding. Women who are made to feel inadequate because baby “isn’t growing properly” or that “breastfeeding is something dirty to be done behind closed (and locked) doors”

    On that second point, I think one of the most interesting things observing the debate over breastfeeding is seeing people’s reactions to the question “What do you feel about breastfeeding in public?” There’s SUCH a broad range of reactions from people ranging from women who feel they should be able to feed their baby in public without any sort of modesty cloth and who are nearly militantly enraged if anyone tells them they can’t to the women who are so completely disgusted by the sight of another woman breast feeding in public.

    What’s even more amusing is if you were then to follow up the question with “How would you feel about seeing a woman’s naked breasts on television?” Usually the pro-public breastfeeders would be totally appauled and the people who despite public breastfeeding say “I don’t care. What’s the big deal?”

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