Breastfeeding your baby can be one of the most wonderful, lovely, challenging things a woman ever does. Simply put, breastfeeding is naturally feeding your infant. If nature had its way, a mother would continue to feed her infant, naturally, for as long as she and the infant wanted to. Usually that’s at least a year or more. So why do so many mothers find it difficult to nurse for more than a few months, even a few weeks?
In today’s American society, we find varying degrees of help and support to nurse, especially after leaving the hospital with our newborn. Family members, jobs, even physicians all play a role on when and where we nurse our babies, and for how long we are able to be successful.
In order to maintain and build a milk supply for a growing infant, that infant needs unrestricted access to the breast to nurse whenever he or she is hungry. This allows the infant to determine the supply that he or she needs to be able to grow. However, less and less mothers find themselves able to be with their infant to give them the access to the breast whenever they are hungry. Our society, unlike other countries around the world, doesn’t provide a new mother and her infant the time of support for this most healthy feeding and growing to take place.
In the US, many new mothers find themselves returning to work a few short weeks, or months, after the birth of their infant. And while we are making great strides as a society in helping to support a mother in the work place to pump her milk, every breastfeeding mother will tell you how that’s just not the same as nursing your infant. A mother’s hormones don’t respond the same way to a pump, and many working mothers trying to pump find it difficult to keep up their supply to meet their infants needs.
Publicly we have barriers making it hard for mothers to nurse when outside the home. While laws have now been passed making it illegal to discriminate against a nursing mother and infant, many women still find discomfort breastfeeding openly.
So how can we help each other, thereby helping our newborns, to continue to enjoy the benefits of nursing? Connect with whatever help and support you may need! Whether it’s finding a physician who will provide the help and support for nursing you need. Find those community resources, mother-baby groups, play groups and other outlets where you can feel comfortable publicly nursing. Talk to your employer to find a solution for you to express your milk as often as you need to. And most importantly, if you feel you may have to quit, but neither you nor your infant really want to, take advantage of all the sources of advice, help and support to provide the means to do so. Meriter’s Mother-Baby hour, the Breastfeeding Helpline and Outpatient Lactation Clinics are just a few examples of those resources available to you.
Sharon Marshall, BSN, RN, IBCLC
Meriter Lactation Services