World Breastfeeding Week 2012

August 6, 2012

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Mom breastfeeding during World Breastfeeding WeekThe first week in August marks the 20th World Breastfeeding Week. Much has happened since the inaugural celebration in 1991 — a tremendous amount of research and experiences by scientists, clinicians and mothers highlighting the benefits of breastfeeding and human milk. The theme of this year’s celebration is Understanding the Past-Planning for the Future. But what is the best course to take to plan for the future based on our past experiences? I have a few thoughts….

Increasing breastfeeding rates. This is the primary focus of many health care groups. But what is the best way to achieve this goal? Some propose mandating behaviors like New York mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Latch On NYC program. Maybe "mandating" is too strong a word here. This plan is a voluntary initiative for New York hospitals that will ask staff to educate (not beat them over the head!) mothers on the benefits of breastfeeding when they ask for formula after their baby’s birth.

Participating hospitals will also stop giving out free formula and keep track of the number of bottles used. Actually, these actions are very similar to some of the Baby Friendly Hospital 10 steps used in many hospitals across America. Implementing these steps takes a tremendous commitment from the hospital and staff, requiring months of preparation. However, evidence (past experience) has shown that it works to increase breastfeeding rates and provide a culture that supports women who want to breastfeed. At Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, we are working toward this Baby Friendly Hospital designation — and I can attest that it is indeed a major undertaking. But then anything that is worthwhile in improving the health and well-being of mothers and babies is definitely worth the effort!

Minimizing mother guilt. I don’t know… is this possible?! A recent article by Jane Brody in the New York Times titled The Ideal and the Real of Breastfeeding stated that new mothers were being made to feel guilty about not breastfeeding. I think feelings of guilt are a prerequisite for motherhood. Most all of the new mothers that I talk with express feelings of guilt for things they do, say, think, eat… the list goes on and on! That is part of being a mother, and as I reassure them, they are fast learners when they feel that guilt early on. They seem to appreciate that observation — that it is a normal feeling.

So what's the best way to balance these positions? Can we provide an environment that supports breastfeeding without placing additional guilt on women? I think the best way is to give them the facts, provide the support, and not be judgmental if their decision does not fit your own views.

For more information visit the Lactation and Milk Bank web page or call (832) 824-6120.

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