Breastfeeding is Healthy, But Societal Pressure is Not

Breastfeeding offers clear benefits. In addition to building baby’s immune system and lessening the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), it also reduces mom’s stress and depression and promotes weight loss. Intellectually, breastfeeding makes perfect sense. We all get that breast is best.

However, for a lot of women the concept of breastfeeding comes laden with expectations, societal pressure and even fear of failure. We think it’s supposed to come naturally to us and so we often fail to properly inform ourselves ahead of time.

Breastfeeding Myths and Facts

The myths associated with breastfeeding are many. The only way to stay remotely sane during the first few months of being a new mom is to separate fact from fiction before baby arrives (or, as soon after as possible).

You’re still going to feel like you’re going stir crazy (sleep deprivation will do that to you), but during your more lucid moments those nuggets of information will serve as a welcome lifeboat. The more you know about what to expect, the better prepared you’ll be to handle each new situation as it arises.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help

woman holding crying baby

By all means, talk to your mom and girlfriends about what to expect, but don’t automatically assume that their experience will be yours. Babies might have similar needs (dry bottoms, full tummies, lots of love, etc.), but how those needs are addressed will vary greatly.

Navigating life with a brand new human is as daunting as it is exciting. Having a postpartum doula on hand to guide you during those first months can be invaluable. The word doula is a Greek word meaning women’s servant. For many westerners, the term and concept may be a new one, but women have in fact been supporting one another in childbirth  for centuries.

Fortunately, we also live in the age of the internet. If you’re not in a position to hire a doula or simply want additional assistance, you can always find help online. For example, Raising Children has a wonderfully helpful video on breastfeeding that provides tips for good attachment to help you get your baby feeding well.

Since its inception in 1956, La Leche League International has been helping mothers worldwide to breastfeed. Along with support groups in every major city, the organization has an extremely engaged Facebook community (each country has its own page) and a wealth of information on their website that includes mother-to-mother forums, podcasts and more.

Navigating Societal Pressure

Women nowadays are being fed conflicting advice when it comes to breastfeeding. On the one hand we’re told that it’s the right thing to do, but then on the other we’re often shamed for feeding our children in public.

According to Parent24.com, breastfeeding in public is a human right. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with that. If you’re out having a meal with friends or family, a great compromise is to use a breastfeeding shawl. Most malls also have feeding rooms and they’re usually comfortably and tastefully decorated.

New moms who are back at work after maternity leave have an equally tough time. We need to express milk so our babies don’t go hungry while we’re out earning the bacon. But there’s another more pressing reason: we don’t want to risk ‘leaking’ in the middle of that all important meeting.

Parenting.com has some great tips for pumping breast milk at work, such as making arrangements ahead of time if your company doesn’t have a designated lactation room, protecting your ‘pumping time’ by blocking it off in your calendar and keeping a spare blouse and bra at the office in case of an accident.

Don’t Judge Yourself

tired mom holding baby bottle

Whatever the outcome of your breastfeeding attempts, it’s important not to judge yourself. Women are experts at self-flagellation and nowhere is this more evident than in the raising of our children.

It’s natural to feel this way. After all, we’ve been tasked with an enormous responsibility. In those instances where you feel as if you’re doing a less than stellar job, take a moment to do a reality check. Are you really messing up? Chances are you’re not.

Mother’s milk is best. However, if for whatever reason you’re not able to breastfeed, then contact your doula, local La Leche League group or pediatrician. More often than not, there’s a solution to the problem. Be sure to explore all alternatives before making the decision to switch to formula.

Most importantly, just enjoy this special time with your little one. As Gretchen Rubin so rightly says, “The days are long, but the years are short.”

Related:
Why Breastfeeding in Public is Still Controversial
Breastfeeding is an Environmental Issue
10 Shocking Statistic About Women’s Health

Photo credit: Thinkstock

35 comments

Yvonne T
Yvonne Tabout a month ago

thanks

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Jennifer S
Past Member 3 months ago

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Marie W
Marie Wabout a year ago

Thanks for sharing

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill1 years ago

I have no problem with someone breast feeding in public, but PLEASE use a receiving blanket or something to cover up. Show some modesty.

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Amanda M
Amanda M1 years ago

I breastfed both my daughters until they self-weaned at ages 2 and 3 respectively, and I ran into my share of critics as well. I'll never forget the obnoxious mall guard who complained to me about my older daughter being "plugged in" in public by the fountain and told me to use the restroom, but he backed off when I asked him if HE would eat in a public toilet! When he said no, I told him not to ask my baby to do that either. And during my days as a security guard at a minor-league ballpark, I worked out an arrangement with the general manager to let nursing women use his office if they weren't comfortable simply sitting in the stands (low-flying fastballs and the odd broken bat could make that hazardous to ANYBODY). This scored us major points with nursing moms and made the place more family-friendly! Sad that there are still too many people in this country who consider breasts to be sex objects and not the natural human udders that they are! PRUDES. Oh, and nursing shawls or blankets don't always work, especially if the baby doesn't like wearing them (in the summer especially, I can't say I blame them). All I have to say to those who find the sight of a nursing baby offensive is "Get over yourselves!"

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Margie FOURIE
Margie FOURIE1 years ago

Thank you. In private it is so good.

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Veronica Danie
Veronica Danie1 years ago

Thank you so very much.

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Veronica Danie
Veronica Danie1 years ago

Thank you so very much.

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Veronica Danie
Veronica Danie1 years ago

Thank you so very much.

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Ruth S
Ruth S1 years ago

Thanks.

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