Thursday, June 29, 2017

Breastfeeding: It takes a whole village

Feeding my child at the intermission of a LA breastfeeding conference.
When my first child was born, I did not have a breastfeeding plan. Then my pediatrician advised me about the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines: exclusive breastfeeding for the baby’s first six months. Then, as foods are introduced, continuing breastfeeding until at least his first birthday.

A friend gave me an electric breast pump. Another friend gave me a cooler and some ice packs. I got serious.

I breastfed my child, relied on pre-pumped breastmilk to get through day care days. I faced breastfeeding discrimination situation at work by six months. I had four business trips by one year. But I insisted.

I insisted not because I am a true believer in the benefits of breastfeeding, but mostly because of the support I had.

Dr. Michael Kramer, a professor of pediatrics and epidemiology at McGill University Faculty of Medicine, led a research on the Promotion of Breastfeeding Intervention Trial, which studied 17,000 mother-infant pairs in Belarus starting in the mid-90s. Half of the mothers, who had all begun breastfeeding at birth, received addition support and encouragement to keep breastfeeding.

Dr. Maryam Sattari, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Florida, was the lead author of a 2016 study on the breastfeeding intentions and practices of 72 internal medicine physicians. The study found that 78 percent of the babies were exclusively breastfed at birth and 40 percent of them at 12 month, though 63 percent of the mothers had planned to go to a year. “These are moms who are highly educated, highly motivated, they all want to do it,” Dr. Sattari told New York Times.

What helped these mothers, she said, was encouragement from medical leadership, as well as appropriate space and time to pump.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s breastfeeding report card on women in the United States breastfeeding babies born in 2013 (the year my first was born), while breastfeeding overall is on the rise, the numbers show that many mothers in this country are not following the A.A.P. recommendations. Compared to 2003, more women in 2013 were initiating breastfeeding (81 percent, up from 73 percent), but only 31 percent still breastfeeding at a year. Cria Perrine, an epidemiologist in the C.D.C’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, said that our culture need to do a better job of supporting women who breastfeed.

With my first child, I made it to six months exclusively. We kept going till he was a little over two years old. I initiated breastfeeding with the support from my pediatrician and lactation consultants in the hospital. I made the business trips with my trusty electric breast pump and the help from airline and hotel staff members. I went through the breastfeeding discrimination lawsuit with the help from Legal Aid Society, local breastfeeding coalitions, along with others. The experience made me deeply aware of how hard it would have been to do this if I was less well supported.

*This is an original post for San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition by To-wen Tseng.

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