Breastfeeding should be as American as apple pie, but it’s not . . . yet. There’s been great progress over the last few years, but it’s not enough. While the issue of nursing in public dominates media coverage, too many of the 77% of mothers who try to breastfeed are not making it through the first few days and weeks without succumbing to the Booby Traps®. In other words, too many of these moms don’t even make it to the point where they would nurse in public. Here’s why:
While the number of Baby-Friendly certified hospitals has doubled in the last few years, only 7.74% of all maternity centers have achieved the designation. Regardless of designation, not enough hospitals have enough qualified IBCLCs on staff 24-7. Even worse, there are too many imposters masquerading as “lactation specialists” that are doing tremendous damage.
While the use of donor milk in the NICU is growing, which is great news for the one in 9 babies that are born premature, a whopping 60% of NICUs are not using donor milk, even though the use of an all human milk diet can lower the risk of NEC, an often-fatal bowel inflammation by 79%. Interestingly, most of the top children’s hospitals ARE using donor milk. Maybe they are on to something.
While the member ranks of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine are swelling, and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Section on Breastfeeding is doing heroic work, there is still no Section on Breastfeeding at the American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology (ACOG). Then there is the question of whether medical students and pediatric/ob-gyn residents are required to learn even the basics of lactation management? All doctors routinely have to take continuing education credits, are any of these breastfeeding related? When a nursing woman sees her psychiatrist, or allergist, or GP, is she being falsely told she can’t breastfeed while taking medication, and told she has to wean prematurely? Is her pharmacist referring to the Infant Risk Center or Thomas Hales’ Medications & Mother’s Milk?
While breastpumps are now covered by health insurance (hooray!), navigating the process can still be extremely frustrating. Conditions in the workplace have improved for many, but not all women. Regardless of the law, too many employers are simply not aware that there is a return of $3 for every $1 they spend on employee lactation programs, and too many mothers face perception and harassment issues at work.
While MomsRising and the United States Breastfeeding Committee are working tirelessly to change policy, and are doing fantastic work, the United States is still the only industrialized nation that does not have paid maternity or parental leave.
Michelle Hickman, our volunteer Director of Activism, spends hours daily responding to callers to our new hotline, 1-855-NIP-FREE, and counseling distressed mothers who have been harassed for nursing. She and her wonderful team have logged hundreds of calls, and given that not all mothers even know about the hotline, we suspect the number is much greater. We love that so many people are buying our Thank You for Nursing In Public cards, but more donations are needed to help us staff this hotline and increase awareness of it.
So, while you are celebrating this great country today, at the ballgame, by the barbecue, spend a few moments reflecting on what can be done to remove the Booby Traps® for moms and ensure that any mother who wants to is free to breastfeed without harassment, discrimination, or ESPECIALLY misinformation. Consider doing something to make sure that more moms can get out of the gate breastfeeding, long before they go to Starbucks, or their neighborhood pool. Consider donating to Best for Babes so we can bring on more celebrities, non-profit partners, media and education partners, members of the medical and research community, and trusted corporate sponsors to help us reach over 4 million expecting and new mothers every year, as well as the 360 degree world around them that can make or break their breastfeeding success.
Maybe we need to send some teen baristas into the trenches.