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A Mothers’ Breastfeeding Struggles Are Not Her Fault – Blame Society

By Dee Merrit

Mothers are warriors.

If you look back on the history of birth in the U.S., 95% of infants were born at home with midwives. Promptly after birth, the child was placed on the mothers’ breast to nurse. Today, many women seem to doubt their ability to give birth naturally and breastfeed. Often society does little to support them.

Many women desire to breastfeed and though the rates have slowly been rising research shows there is still a decrease in breastfeeding rates from birth to one-year. A quick google search will show you why there is a decrease. What is not listed amidst the CDC research is how women have been taught to not trust their bodies.

In America, it is more common (and comfortable) to see women advertised in lingerie and skimpy clothing. At the same time, a woman nursing in public can publicly shamed or experience feelings of discomfort, or be judged critically. Nursing mothers are still evicted from public spaces, restaurants, and they encounter rude comments when strangers express they do not want their child(ren) exposed to breastfeeding. Although breastfeeding is what our bodies are designed to do, it can be awkward and has been referred to as something to be socially discreet about.

As a mother of three boys, I would rather have them grow up knowing breasts have a purpose. Women’s bodies are uniquely formed to feed babies and also to comfort them. Additionally, nursing a newborn helps with psychological development (and so many more other beneficial things).

In some communities, mothers have access to breastfeeding help through groups like La Leche, as well as breastfeeding cafes and mother support groups. Still, some mothers struggle. It could be that many mothers continue to get false information from health care professionals who are not educated about lactation, and though health care professionals mean well, they sometimes insinuate that mothers should not trust their bodies.

All breastfeeding mothers should have access to local references from lactation professionals and be free of cruelty and judgment. If an advisor is not available, then there are other ways to connect to professional consultants including email, phone, and video chat. Unfortunately, these options are not always promoted. Many health care professionals unintentionally perpetuate myths about breastfeeding. For example, I have heard of women being told that breastfeeding can hurt; NO! Breastfeeding should not hurt! If it does, then it is a signal that something may be wrong and the nursing mother should seek help from an IBCLC. There are so many myths that continue to be perpetuated. Here are a few listed online courtesy of the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, UNICEF [LINK].

Even with available resources, some mothers of young children struggle just getting out of the house. They’re tired, overwhelmed, and are dealing with a  mixed bag of emotions. If they have a messy house on top of that, they may not want to entertain visitors. Believe me, no one coming to support or assist a mother with nursing is spending their energy judging a messy home. (My own kitchen has been not been cleaned since I had my first son 8 years ago and yet, I continued to have more children)!

In this shared graph from Katie Hinde, an Associate Professor of Evolutionary Biology and Senior Sustainability Scientist at Arizona State University, and a researcher of lactation, she shares on this brief clip on Ted Talks what little we know about breastmilk compared to other subjects.

She shares this powerful message, “Many mothers do not reach their breastfeeding goals, that is not their failure, it’s ours.”

Do nursing mothers have rights? Yes, they do. But in 2019 some mothers still struggle with being told they can not nurse in public. As recently as this summer, a woman in Texas was told she could not nurse her baby at the public pool. Even though this mother knew hew rights, this issue escalated quickly and police were called to the scene. A breastfeeding mother has rights for a reason. These rights should not only be known by mothers but by public servants as well. Government employees as well as other facilities that say they support breastfeeding mothers need to be required to read and understand breastfeeding rights for customers, as well as their employees. This can vary from state to state. Mothers nursing in public helps to expose the general public to an infant’s needs as well as the very natural act of maternal nursing.

Even though some people in the general public may be hurtful, many other breastfeeding advocates will support you. We are mothers, we have the right to feed our babies as we choose, and we will not be silenced for choosing to breastfeed whenever and wherever our child is hungry outside the home.

Sources:
https://sites.google.com/site/historyofchildbirthinamerica/historical-resources/historical-timeline
https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/data/nis_data/results.html
https://www.unicef.org/parenting/food-nutrition/14-myths-about-breastfeeding
https://www.cnn.com/2019/06/11/health/texas-breastfeeding-pool-trnd/index.html

Deann’s Other Blogs at MOM: 

Why Don’t IBLCLCs And Dentists Agree
How Income and Insurance Can Affect Breastfeeding Support For New Moms
Breastfeeding Education Might Not Be What You Think It Is
Gender Disappointment

Recent Press: Cayuga News about Dee Merrit at MOM

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Did Someone Say Doula?

ICYMI – In a recent article, The Times reported on the growing numbers of doulas that expecting NYC moms employ to support them during their labor processes. Those this may feel like old news to some, The Times goes on to discuss doulas’ push for a greater level of recognition.

Doulas, a name derived from an ancient Greek term meaning female servant, offer birthing support to expecting moms. Doulas may help prep parents for the realities of childbirth, attend births, and/or assist post-delivery. According to The Times, there are as many as 400 active doulas in NYC who attend approximately 5600 births a year, making up 5% of all births. Despite growing in number and popularity, doulas still make up only a small part of the maternal health system. Refusal to be included in health insurance coverage and pushback from the medical community have left some doulas feeling shut out. Now, several groups are advocating for health insurance companies to offer doula services (a model that exists currently in the state of Oregon’s Medicaid program), as well as rallying for an elevated sense of purpose and credibility within the medical field. The article interviewed various medical professionals, some who praised the role of the doula, and others who rebuffed their call for a higher level of acceptance. Doulas do not go through the same credentialing process as midwives or obstetricians, so some doctors are skeptical of the success that organizing doulas will have in pushing for insurance companies to cover their services. Still, doulas – and those who believe in the value of their services – will say that they serve an important role medically, in that they prioritize laboring mothers’ health choices/plans and, according to the article, “’put the ball back in the mom’s court.’”

Perhaps we will have to wait and see where these issues go, but no doubt the increased awareness of doulas’ experience will help the movement grow.

Read much more on this topic: Human Rights in Childbirth Conference Papers

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Meet Our Blogging Intern Naomi Rendina

Hello, everyone! I am Naomi Rendina, and am the new intern for the Museum of Motherhood! Currently, I am a PhD student at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and am studying the history of medicine. My research interests are the history of contraception, childbirth, and consumerism related to the medical and social aspects of motherhood.

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I have been married to an US soldier for just over six years, and we have a beautiful five year daughter who is starting kindergarten this year!

As for this blog, I am going to focus on contraception and birthing methodologies. Both of these topics currently are in the limelight, and I aim to help create material that can better educate the public on women’s issues, where they come from, and why we should support them. I want to illuminate how contraception works, how they have developed, and even social issues surrounding them.

I have noticed that there is a lot of material floating around social media sites about how to give birth. The abundance of methods creates a need for a better understanding of each so that not only are expectant couples aware of their options, but can accept other couples’ choices in how they bring their new babies into the world. Hopefully, I will get to share some of YOUR birth stories with the world through this blog! At some point, I will share my own!

Each week, I hope to bring you a short, interactive blog post that encourages discussion and provides insight. Every week, each blog will include suggestions for further reading, and links to expert and interesting websites to check out.

Please go “like” the Museum of Motherhood on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter

I look forward to writing for this blog, and hope to get to know you all a little better over the next year.

In the comment section below, please introduce yourself and make any suggestions as to what you would like to see in the blog! I would love to hear from you, and will try to answer any questions you may have.

So, what about contraception and childbirth would you like to know?

Until next time!

Naomi