Women who want to breastfeed their babies know that it is the healthiest choice they can make, for their babies and for themselves, but they also face numerous societal barriers, including:
- Formula advertising
- Insufficient education of medical professionals
- Lack of access to lactation consultants and breast pumps
- Lack of maternity leave
- No workplace support for breastfeeding
- Milk banks are not a priority
- Negative attitudes
- Pervasive bottle imagery
In particular, the lack of workplace support for breastfeeding is a significant barrier to breastfeeding in the United States. Whether women are forced back to work due to lacking maternity leave provisions or choose to go back to work, they do not have sufficient support for breastfeeding in the workplace. Some states have laws that protect women’s rights in this regard, but many do not. Even among those that do have laws, employers are known to put pressure on breastfeeding women or make them feel bad for needing facilities or time to pump. There is also not enough support for babies at work programs, which allow women to bring small babies to work with them if they choose. Without the right support, women often find themselves trying to pump enough milk sitting on a toilet without frequent enough breaks to maintain milk supply.
Now experts from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) are saying that provisions within the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will help increase the number of working mothers who are able to continue breastfeeding their babies. According to the IWPR report entitled Better Health for Mothers and Children: Breastfeeding Accomodations Under the Affordable Care Act:
The ACA accommodations for breastfeeding in the workplace require private, sanitary facilities for hourly employees to express milk. The report estimates the legislation will result in an annual increase of 165,000 women who breastfeed their children, and will affect more than one million mothers and their children over the course of the next six years.
These provisions, which cover almost 19 million women, will allow many more women to make the best decision for their babies. The will be enabled by this legislation to continue breastfeeding when they return to work. In particular, this legislation will protect those women who are in the weakest position in the labour market (younger, less educated, African American or Hispanic) and who have historically had lower breastfeeding rates.
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Annie blogs about the art and science of parenting at the PhD in Parenting blog.
Image credit: Wha'ppen on flickr