It’s our birthday month! 16 years ago, seven brave women ventured out to create a breastfeeding center. At the time, fewer than 10% of moms breastfed for six months. While our goal was to provide support, there is no denying that a big part of what we set out to do was convince new moms that breastfeeding makes a difference. In 2004, the federal government branded a campaign called “Babies were born to be breastfed." The message for mothers was clear: Breastfeeding rates are too low and there are consequences to your babies health if you do not breastfeed.
Hello 2017! The word on the street is that moms no longer want to hear about statistics. They don’t want to feel pressured to breastfeed. They just want a bit of support. After all, what if you are the mom who never makes a full milk supply? What if your baby never latches well and getting a full feeding at the breast is like climbing Mount Everest? The reality is that breastfeeding is often far from perfect. Shouldn’t our message be “bestfed” instead of “breastfed?"
I have to admit that MilkWorks has a hand out titled Does it Really Matter? It lists the multitude of ways that human milk is superior to formula. Yes, I said it. Human milk is superior to cows’ milk formula when we are feeding human babies. But in the same breath, I will be the loudest to say, “Until moms have the option to be home with their babies on paid maternity leave, hire a certified wet nurse, or purchase banked human milk at Target, what other options do moms have?” When a baby is hungry, a baby needs to be fed.
The reality is that MilkWorks is moving away from the message “breast is best”. After 16 years, we intimately know that every mom and baby relate to, respond to, and connect with breastfeeding in amazingly different ways. Partly because our lives are so diverse, but partly because our bodies and our babies all respond to breastfeeding in different ways.
We know that OUR role is all about support. In 2017, it is not just OUR role, but the role of the Pope, the Nebraska legislature, the Affordable Care Act, employers, schools, the legal system, People magazine, funders, health insurance plans, my sons, and your sons. We need to talk about what makes it hard (an amazing lack of paid maternity leave in the United States) and what we can do about it (support Senator Crawford’s LB305, which calls for paid medical leave in Nebraska).
Breastfeeding is an evolution, not a revolution. When we see it that way, we will stop pushing data in moms’ faces. We will remove barriers and help moms feel good about themselves and their babies. We’ll get to a place where every mom who wants to breastfeed will make it happen in some way, manner or form. One thing I know for sure? We’ll get there much quicker with a huge dose of understanding, love and support.