To the mom who tried to breastfeed her child, and thinks that she failed because she didn’t produce enough milk…
To the mom who wanted to “try” breastfeeding, but wasn’t sure how to make it all work…
To the mom who set a goal to make it to a year, but doesn’t have the support needed to get her there…
To the mom who supplemented with formula, because someone recommended it, and didn’t know how to maintain her milk supply…
To every mom who wanted to breastfeed longer than they did, but were unable to for whatever reason…
YOU DESERVED MORE!
You deserved more than accepting second best as “good enough”. You deserved the support you truly needed to reach the goals you set for yourself. You don’t deserve to feel the guilt you feel, because you couldn’t reach those goals. You deserved the chance to make choices about feeding your baby on your own terms.
While there has been improvement in breastfeeding rates over the past few years, there is still a long way to go. As a culture, we spend far too much time worrying about who we might offend, and not enough time worrying about doing what is right for society. What is right, and what is necessary, is moms having the unwavering support they need to continue breastfeeding their babies for as long as they are willing and able.
In reality, there are plenty of reasons a mom would choose to use formula. However, when it comes to breastfeeding support and advocacy, that point is irrelevant. Most moms aren’t using formula by choice, but instead because they felt they had no other option. Two-thirds of mothers who intended to exclusively breastfeed are not meeting their breastfeeding goals, and being forced to switch to formula before they were really ever ready to do so.
Advocating for breastfeeding is important to each and every one of us. Even those of us who were formula fed and “turned out just fine”. It’s important because breastfeeding benefits not just babies and moms, but our society as a whole.
It’s time to advocate for the importance of breastfeeding for a full six months (at a very minimum), and promoting it, for those who want to do so, for a year or more. It’s time we start looking at breastfeeding as about more than just feeding your baby in the privacy of your own home. It’s time we start looking at breastfeeding as more than just a “personal choice”. Breastfeeding is not only good for babies, moms, and families. It’s good for the economy, the general health and wellness of the public, and the environment. Breastfeeding advocacy is an absolute must because breast is best for everyone.
Breast is Best for the Economy
The U.S. healthcare system could save an estimated $30 billion dollars a year if 90% of women breastfed exclusively until 6 months, and individual families who breastfeed exclusively for 6 months can save over $1500. Every single year, the U.S. government spends $578 million in formula subsidies as part of the W.I.C. program for women who could potentially be breastfeeding and every 10% increase in breastfeeding rates would save the government $750,000 per year. This is a significant savings, of which could be put towards education, and advocacy programs to help mothers who want to breastfeed, continue to do so far as long as they desire.
For moms (and dads!) who go back to work, the number of sick days taken to stay home and care for a sick infant is much lower in parents of breastfed babies. This is because breastmilk provides infants with antibodies that boost their immune system, to prevent illness and the spread of germs, and length of sickness in babies who do get sick. Employers who provide lactation support programs, and breastfeeding friendly environments have lower rates of turnover and higher job satisfaction, reducing costs to companies who need to replace experienced workers.
Breast is Best for Public Health
While it is true that infant mortality rates are dropping overall, more children are dying within the first month of life. 22% of newborn deaths could be prevented if breastfeeding were initiated within the first hour after birth. That’s 830,000 babies each year that would still be alive, because of the miracle of breastmilk. Infants who are not breastfed are 15 times more likely to die from pneumonia and 11 times more likely to die of diarrhea than infants who are exclusively breastfed for six months. Here in our western society, we are lucky enough to have clean water, limited disease outbreaks, and access to health care. Infant mortality is the furthest thing from our minds. I assure you, the low rates of breastfeeding in the U.S. are still a problem. Unfortunately, we are not as immune as we think. In fact, one study found that if 90% of women in the U.S. breastfed their children exclusively for the first 6 months, we could prevent 911 deaths, most of whom are infants.
Formula fed babies are at a higher risk of a number of different health problems including respiratory infections, diabetes, leukemia, GI infections, and SIDS.
The low breastfeeding rates put mothers in danger too. It is estimated that about 72,000 women are dying before age 70 due to continued low rates of breastfeeding. This is related to the risk of ovarian cancer, osteoporosis and depression in women who do not breastfeed. Breastfeeding is known to reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, osteoporosis, obesity, and depression in mothers.
The immediate health benefit of nature’s most complete form of nutrition for babies seems to be well established. Breastfeeding boosts psychological development, increases the baby’s immune system, and research even shows that breastfed babies have significantly better cognitive functioning than formula fed babies. What is more, is recent research is finding that the long-term benefits of breastfeeding are greater than we thought. Adults who were breastfed for more than 3 months have a significantly lower risk of inflammation associated with cardiovascular disease and metabolic disease. Breastfeeding could also potentially protect against obesity later in life, currently a major public health problem in the United States. This tells us that breastfeeding is about more than just the health of babies. It’s about the health, growth, and overall future of our country.
Breast is Best for the Environment
The production, sale, and distribution of infant formula has an enormous impact on our environment. Formula use contributes to the consumption of 1.5 million pounds of paper, 25 million pounds of metal, 6 million gallons of oil, and 135 million pounds of carbon dioxide each year! If you stacked all of the containers of baby formula purchased in a year in the U.S. they could circle the earth one and a half times. That is a TON of formula containers. Not to mention all of those plastic bottles and nipples that will take over 200 years to break down. The best thing about breastmilk is that it is always ready, it is always warm, and it comes in an eco-friendly, and pretty good-looking package!
So next time you think that breastfeeding isn’t an issue you are concerned with, think again. It is a major economic, public health, and environmental issue that concerns every single human on this planet.
The time is NOW to use our outside voices to support Thriving Families & Communities. Get involved at www.usbreastfeeding.org/nbm #NBM14