Monday, March 19, 2012

Breastfeeding and Beyond: More work to be done

Well, I am back from my trip to Los Angeles.
Though some say that L.A. is in the "Beyond" section of Bed, Bath and Beyond, it felt very home-like this visit.  I enjoyed visiting with old friends and seeing where my daughter, Olivia, hangs her trench coat, that I covet. 

Breastfeeding and Beyond

Though I didn't see Beyonce breastfeeding in public (or at all), I did see a mom nursing a toddler at the La Brea Tar Pits Page Museum

I didn't know that the frequently misnomered "saber toothed tiger" is actually the California saber toothed cat and is the state fossil.
California saber toothed cat - Smilodon fetalis

UK breastfeeding survey

So I am reentering my world of PA school preparation, otherwise known as real life,
and I came across this article in my in box.  (I found the Medscape summary of this study a better summary.)  Apparently, new mothers in Scotland were surveyed concerning  attitudes about breastfeeding their infants for the first six months of life.

Though the size of the sample was alarmingly small, some of the conclusions were interesting if not heartening.

Here are a few that struck me:
  • new mothers found prenatal breastfeeding "too scientific" and "patronizing"
  • participants desired to have more inclusive choices offered to them other than breastfeeding--such as combining formula use with breastfeeding
  • mothers in this survey wanted more family centric options
  • these mothers felt that "lactation specialists" in the hospitals were breast nazis.
  • the mothers felt that they were being pushed or expected to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months and that this was too demanding and they felt unsupported in their efforts.
Gosh, a breast nazi! 

I find it disheartening how women sometimes find a way to criticize those who purport to help them when they don't like the message.  I wonder if a physician, nurse or nutritionist would be equally vilified for urging a diabetic patient to exercise and follow a healthy diet.  Why do people call lactation educators and consultants "breast nazis"?  Why do we allow it?  It really seems petty to me.

As a lactation consultant, I was frequently asked to help a mother wean her baby and asked for advice on how to integrate bottles of milk and solid foods into the infants feeding.  And as any other healthcare professional does, the lactation consultant gives the most appropriate advice and support to that patient.  Would a so called "breast nazi" do this?  I think not. 

It is so unfortunate that this term seems to be gaining some traction in the media and amongst women.  My husband prefers the term "breastivist."  Not sure I love this term as much as he does.

Mother's Best

I recall when nurses at Woman's Hospital in Baton Rouge, used to laughingly refer to my breastfeeding store, Mother's Best, as Mother's Breast.  That was fine with me!

Take away message

I think the take-away message from this study is that we still have much work to do in better supporting women in their breastfeeding.

Check out this article about nipple coverage
Breastfeeding isn't always a walk in the park.  Parenting is rarely a walk in the park.  And though the goal of six months of exclusive breastfeeding may not feel compelling to some new mothers when infant formula offers alternate nutrition that will adequately sustain their baby, we need to find ways to support and encourage them when they breastfeed.

I came across this picture with the red feather nipple covers in an article about a coffee shop in Park Slope frequented by nursing mothers and their children.  Apparently, the owner displayed some artwork done by an employee and covered the nipples so as to not offend his patrons.  But the mothers were more offended at the covered nipples, so they uncovered the artwork!

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