I LOVE watching the Olympics. I have a blend of sympathy and admiration for the athletes. Their fierceness for perfection strikes me as unrealistic. Yet their determination inspires me. Because I personally value teamwork more than winning, when they help each other to succeed, it makes me smile.
So what do the Olympics have to do with breastfeeding?
The Centers for Disease Control releases statistics on breastfeeding every couple of years. When they release the new data, it is like reading the sports page. How did Nebraska do? Are our stats better this year? Did we beat Iowa?
MilkWorks did a series of Facebook posts during August on Twenty Actions to Support Breastfeeding for World Breastfeeding Week. One mom commented: “We’re at fourteen months w/o a hint of slowing down!” Another posted: “Twenty four months and going strong!” It made me think - is pressure and competition in breastfeeding a good thing? or a bad thing?
The New York Times has had numerous articles this year about moms being pressured to breastfeed, moms feeling guilty if they stop before twelve months, and breastfeeding campaigns creating serious hardships for women. One headline called the topic: The Milk Wars.
Is it is possible to keep the good old American value of competition and winning out of breastfeeding? Or, is there a bigger question? Would moms feel less pressure to breastfeed if our society felt MORE pressure to be supportive of breastfeeding mothers?
There are plenty of mothers who WANT to breastfeed. But when they get hassled for pumping at work, are asked to breastfeed in a bathroom, or are given different information from every single care provider, is it any wonder they give up and feel bad? Or feel forced?
Breastfeeding is not about winning a gold medal. At the same time, if a mom wants to brag a little in a culture that works very hard to get her to bottle feed, maybe we should let her brag. America thrives on peer pressure, hard work and competition. Whether we like it or not, these are cultural values and they may spread to breastfeeding. As long as we throw in teamwork and support, we might have a winning combination.