Empower Women. Enable Breastfeeding. This is the theme of World Breastfeeding Week, August 1st through the 7th, 2019. This week is set aside to highlight breastfeeding and its vital importance to women, infants, and the community around them. Communities across the country, including those in the Tri-State area, will hold events to recognize breastfeeding and empower the mothers who dedicate themselves to this worthy task.
Although most women (83.2%) plan to breastfeed, only 46.9% breastfeed exclusively through three months and only 24.9% through six months, despite recommendations that encourage exclusive breastfeeding through six months and beyond. These rates suggest that women are not being empowered or enabled to breastfeed in the most optimal ways.
What can we do to empower and enable women in our lives?
Learn the facts about breastfeeding.
Did you know that the more often a baby nurses, the more milk a mom makes? And that just because a baby nurses often doesn’t mean the mom has a low supply? Babies instinctively seek out the breast for hunger, thirst, comfort, closeness and much more. Well-intentioned families and friends can undermine a mom’s confidence by offering a bottle to “give the mom a break” or “feed the baby so they aren’t hungry.” Rather, let the mom know you admire her dedication and patience with breastfeeding and how much you appreciate the hard work she does to feed the baby. Offering emotional support in a positive way helps empower women to have more confidence and belief in themselves and their bodies.
Make breastfeeding the new normal.
We need to view breastfeeding as a primary physiologic function of a woman’s body and a baby’s instinctive need to eat, not just a lifestyle choice. Breastmilk contains live cells, growth factors, digestive enzymes that promote intestinal health, a higher bioavailability of vitamins and minerals (meaning a greater percentage is absorbed), and much more. Breastfeeding offers lifelong benefits, even long after the baby is done breastfeeding. If all women breastfed for six months, the United States would save over 13 billion dollars a year in health care costs—just by breastfeeding! When you see a mom breastfeeding in public, thank her and encourage her, rather than acting shocked about what she is doing. If you see a mom struggling, give her a kind smile and offer to help if you can.
Encourage employers and business owners to support breastfeeding.
Over fifty percent of new moms will have to return to work after the birth of their baby. Some moms have 12-18 weeks of maternity leave while others go back to work as soon as two weeks or less after giving birth. Employers and business owners can make a strong statement of support by offering paid maternity leave and in many cases, paternity leave as well. When a mom returns to work, support to continue breastfeeding by pumping milk at work, is crucial. Employers who provide a private place for pumping and offer a supportive work environment so moms can have time to pump empower their employees. Empowered employees are loyal, committed, and potentially more productive in their jobs simply because they feel supported.
Being a new breastfeeding mom means being vulnerable and it takes great bravery to be vulnerable. Let’s honor and empower the brave women in our lives to trust their instincts, honor their truths, and believe that You Are Enough.
For more information about breastfeeding, pumping, prenatal bf education and more, contact Becky Franzen, MA, CLC at Statera Integrated Health and Wellness or bravebreastfeeding.com
~Becky Franzen, IBCLC, CLC