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From today through August 7th is World Breastfeeding Week (not to be confused with National Breastfeeding Month), and I think that bears a little discussion about breastfeeding (quickly, as we’ll have more discussions on this blog for the next few days).
The U.S. picture on breastfeeding
This Chicago Tribune article is a good resource on breastfeeding in the U.S., including these stats:
According to a 2016 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, breast-feeding rates are up nationwide. “Among infants born in 2013, 4 out of 5 (81.1 percent) started to breast-feed, over half (51.8 percent) were breast-feeding at six months and almost one-third (30.7 percent) were breast-feeding at 12 months,” the Breastfeeding Report Card found.
The assumption for the drop-off at six months is usually a lack of support for the mother. The support can take many forms, as the article also notes:
“How can parents, family and friends support breast-feeding? Feed, support and nourish mommy,” Heidelberger said. “Then we have to talk about the awkward and embarrassing things. Ask mom, ‘How are your boobs? Are they engorged? How do you feel? Are your nipples cracking?’ The minute there is someone that can break the ice and have that uncomfortable conversation, the mom can get comfortable with what she’s doing and how she’s feeling.”
Asking your aunt, sister, or friend “Are your nipples cracking?” maybe isn’t the best dinner intro topic, but there’s much worse stuff out there too.
The world picture on breastfeeding
About 40% of infants worldwide are breastfed until six months, and only about 67% are introduced to solid food in a timely manner.
I realize there are different viewpoints on breastfeeding, as any issue, but it should be noted here that even the World Health Organization has said “Early childhood development begins with a mother’s breast.” Some countries where breastfeeding isn’t always normative, like Vietnam, have recently enacted campaigns to change that. (The rates are rising.)
What are the arguments against breastfeeding?
Sit down for this line: some have called it “this generation’s vacuum cleaner, i.e. an instrument of misery designed to keep women down.”
That’s from this article in The Atlantic, which spells out most of the arguments against breastfeeding. This note stands out:
“The studies do not demonstrate a universal phenomenon, in which one method is superior to another in all instances,” concluded one of the first, and still one of the broadest, meta studies, in a 1984 issue of Pediatrics, “and they do not support making a mother feel that she is doing psychological harm to her child if she is unable or unwilling to breastfeed.”
Personally I am in favor of breastfeeding, but I also think the decision lies with the individual mother and family. I’d never try to overstep there.
What’s your take on breastfeeding, before we get into the product side of things?