The journal Pediatrics reported yesterday that the lives of nearly 900 babies would be saved each year, along with billions of dollars, if 90 percent of U.S. women fed their babies breast milk only for the first six months of life.
I’ve shared before that I breastfed each of my kids about 18 months each. I feel very strongly about the importance of nursing, but I also never went back to work outside of the home.
Neither of my first two children would even take a bottle they were so used to being fed on the breast. (My mother would call me home from dates with my husband because Rose absolutely refused to eat anything from a bottle.)
What if I had gone back to work? What would I have done?
I know multiple women who developed breast infections when they did go back to work because their employer did not give them adequate time to pump. And even when they did get to pump some of the babies turned up their noses at the breastmilk from bottles and the mothers had to use formula while they were separated.
An article on Boston.com Moms does a great job of examining these issues and why it is difficult for moms to nurse as long as recommended. While recognizing the benefits of breastfeeding, the blogger asks how can moms accomplish this goal without the support of their employers?
From Boston.com Moms:
“But exclusive breast-feeding is easier said than done, at least for women in the United States: According to BusinessWeek, “Of infants born in 2006, 43 percent were breast-feeding at 6 months and 23 percent at 12 months. Just 14 percent, however, had been exclusively breast-fed for six months.” And as any mom who has lugged a breast pump with her to the office for any length of time knows, returning to work can make it even harder to continue to nurse.”
“Just 24 states, along with Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., have laws relating to breastfeeding in the workplace. (Massachusetts is not one of them.) In Allen v. totes/Isotoner Corp., Ohio’s supreme court ruled that it was legal for Isotoner to fire LaNisa Allen, the mother of a nursing 5-month-old, taking unauthorized breaks to pump – and for “choosing to breastfeed” (Leah at Working (on) Motherhood had a great take on the case at the time).”
“Companies often encourage their employees to take advantage of healthy eating programs and gym memberships, but when it comes to facilitating breastfeeding, many working moms feel like they’re on their own….”
“One thing seems pretty clear: If it’s in the country’s best interests to have new moms nurse their infants exclusively for at least six months — and the billions of dollars in health care savings indicates that it may be – then new moms should get at least six months of paid leave in which they can do so. The United States and Australia are the only two industrialized countries in the world that do not offer paid maternity leave. And moms in the Outback have a sweeter deal than we do: In Australia, your job is protected for a year, but in the United States new working moms only get that guarantee for 12 weeks.”
I agree with this blogger that if the benefits are that great (and we know they are!) then companies (or the government) must create an environment where women can accomplish this goal.
What do you think? Is it impossible in the current environment – with almost 80 percent of mothers working with only 12 weeks of protection for their jobs – to nurse for six months exclusively?
What would you like to see employers do to help 90 percent of mothers achieve breastfeeding for at least six months?
Is this something the government needs to get involved in or should a free-market economy be able to adjust for this goal of greater health for our next generation?