Most American mothers start out with good intentions to breastfeed, but fall far short of the recommended goals. Figures from the Centers for Disease Control show that about 76 percent of mothers begin to breastfeed their child at birth, but only 25 percent continue it for a whole year, as recommended by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least six months, yet only 47 percent of mothers reach that mark. Given the huge benefits of breastfeeding, those numbers are abysmally low.
That can change if mothers know how to overcome the hurdles to developing long-term breastfeeding habits. Here are a couple of hurdles, with tips on how to hop over them.
Breastfeeding problem #1: Getting started
- Go to a breastfeeding-friendly hospital, where they don’t offer formula in the first 24-48 hours of life unless it’s medically necessary.
- Get a lactation specialist, if needed, to show you how to get the baby on the breast correctly and establish a good latch.
- Don’t get frustrated. New mothers in this period can be very overwhelmed with so many things, such as being in pain because they just came out of delivery. And they’re expected breastfeed round the clock every two hours! Realize that it’s normal to be frustrated, but stay on track with breastfeeding.We offer a beginning breastfeeding class to help new moms get started
Breastfeeding problem #2: Going back to work
In the United States we have a relatively short maternity leave, about six weeks on average, whereas other countries allow six months to a year. Then we have hurdles once we get back to work:
- Finding a place to pump, finding time to pump. Colorado law requires that paid or unpaid breaks be offered for breast milk expressing for up to two years, and that a reasonable effort must be made to provide a clean place to pump milk, other than a toilet stall, so long as it does not pose an undue hardship on normal operations. If you’re having problems with this at work, a doctor’s note can help. The laws in most states also protect women to breastfeed anywhere they want, any time they want and with any level of exposure they want.
- In some professions it’s frowned upon to take a break. That’s the case in my field, so what I did was to start my clinic 15 minutes earlier and stayed 15 minutes later in the evening so I could take breaks during the day to pump. I think teachers probably struggle the most with this so they may need to make adjustments, such as scheduling a planning period in the morning when they can pump. Whatever your job, it pays to communicate with your supervisor to find a way to fit breastfeeding into your day.
- Purchasing a pump (which may cost you several hundred dollars) and then figuring out the storage. Rental breast pumps are available, through our hospital and many hospitals, and many insurance companies will help cover that cost with a doctor’s note. Even if you want to buy a $300 electric dual pump, your insurance company may help pay for part of that, with a doctor’s note. Your company may cover part of that as well. There are a lot of hands-free options now including special pumping bras and battery operated breast pumps so you can even pump while working (such as on a computer or reading) in some cases!
- Find a childcare center that is friendly to human milk. That’s an issue with a lot of places. Make sure you can either bring freshly pumped milk every day or have a clean place to store your frozen milk with your childcare provider. Milk can safely remain in the freezer for at least 3-6 months depending on the temperature.
Top reasons to breastfeed
- Decreased risk of infection for your baby, because of maternal antibodies in the breast milk.
- Fewer childhood allergies due to breast milk exposure.
- Convenient, warm, and always there. You don’t have to heat up anything up, it’s cheaper than formula, and you don’t have the expense of bottles or the time spent washing them.
- It meets the nutritional needs of your baby without having to think about it. Breast milk matures with the child, unlike formula. With a newborn, the breast milk is high calorie high fat, and as the child grows older, it thins out and is more like cow’s milk.
- There’s a lot to be said for the maternal/child bond associated with breastfeeding. The value to a new mom of having to sit down and look at her child every two or three hours for the first few months of life and hold her kid is inestimable—there’s not a number you can put on that.
One final important word on the issue: if breastfeeding is not working out for you, you shouldn’t beat yourself up over it. It’s one of the most common concerns I see mothers have when they come in for their six week postpartum visit: they are losing it over the fact that they are struggling to breastfeed. Please remember that the postpartum period may be the only time you will spend uninterrupted with your baby during her lifetime. If breastfeeding is not working for you, it is definitely not the end of the world, and we can help you find other options!