I just sent this letter to the show “White Coat, Black Art” which ran a segment today on guilt, formula feeding and breast feeding:
As a mother who hasn’t been able to produce enough breast milk for my baby (we supplement my breast milk with donated milk and formula), I listened with interest to this program. What I would have liked to hear is a real description of what support for breastfeeding looks like.
From my experience, support from health care professionals means providing far more pre and post-natal knowledge about what mothers can do to maximize their success – skin to skin contact, babywearing, feeding on cue, laid back nursing, and many others – and providing the practical help to trouble shoot, such as helping a new mom put her baby in a sling, adjust her latch, and help her adjust to the new lifestyle that producing a milk supply requires.
Support from friends and family means taking care of cooking, cleaning and other demands, and keeping away distractions that prevent mom and baby from spending the intense time together that it takes to get feeding started right. It also means telling her she’s doing a great job.
Support from society means questioning our assumptions that babies should fit conveniently into our existing routines. It means expecting that new moms will be absorbed mind, heart and body with their new baby and that this is a good thing, rather than expecting them to get the baby onto a schedule and themselves out into the world as quickly as possible.
If we actually actively supported breast feeding in our society, many more women would experience breastfeeding success. And knowing that this support is there, we should be able to extend it fully to those women who, for whatever reasons, need to feed their babies by other methods.
Finally, it would have been nice to hear mention of continued breast feeding even in those cases where a woman has only a partial supply. I have chosen to continue though my daughter doesn’t get her full nourishment from me, because I know all the benefits she does get even from a partial supply. Encouraging mothers who can only partially feed their children to continue with that is another way to provide support.