Breastfeeding Rates & Better PoliciesApr 25, 2022
Did you know?? Breastfeeding rates are directly affected by culture, status & the lack of support. Having family-friendly policies are critical to increasing breastfeeding rates worldwide. Yet, policies that support breastfeeding – such as paid parental leave and breastfeeding breaks – are not yet available to most mothers worldwide.
“The health, social and economic benefits of breastfeeding – for mother and child – are well-established and accepted throughout the world. Yet, nearly 60 per cent of the world’s infants are missing out on the recommended six months of exclusive breastfeeding,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. So even though we live in an upper middle to high income country, our rates of initiation & continuation of breastfeeding is lower then lower income countries. Our Mommas/families are expected to go back to work sometime as early as 4-6 weeks! I was victim to this with my first baby and it was beyond difficult to continue nursing & pumping & everything else that comes with it. I was a young low income Mother and could barely afford my rent and groceries let alone a daycare bill. I had my Mom move in with me and my husband so that she could stay with my son when I returned back to work. I was to have 4 paid weeks off however, I developed terrible sciatica and a mild case of hyperemesis the last few weeks of my pregnancy. My doctor put me on bed rest which prevented me from working. This took away from the allotted paid time off I had through my job and the FMLA Family Medical Leave act. The FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. Childbirth is one of those medical reasons included in FMLA. The problem was it is not paid. So I had a week off prior to giving birth then 3 paid weeks after. Lucky for me I had my son early so I was able to get more time with him. My family took a huge pay loss when I extended my time to 6 weeks postpartum because I was not ready to leave my baby at 3 weeks old. Can we take a minute and really think about this?? Three weeks postpartum a mother is barely healed from sutures. She is still probably bleeding from birth, her body is still healing and vulnerable and her baby is still adjusting to a new world. Whoever decided a new parent should have to go back to work so soon after birth probably never went through this. The other thing was my husband had to go back after 1 week. Barely enough time for him to bond with our baby let alone heal and adjust after birth. Yes, partners need to heal and adjust too! This is a huge transition for them as well. Emotionally and physically. They are up at night supporting Mom through this time so they deserve some time off as well. Did you know that other Countries like France can give a mother up to 2 years off to care for her baby!? So what it boils down to is that our Country has a lot of work to do in this area. If we as a whole are going to support, encourage and promote breastfeeding then we need to have better policies that will affect it. Being a middle to high income country and having the lowest breastfeeding rates in comparison to other countries is not acceptable. Being able to stay with your new baby after birth should not be a luxury it is a necessity. Just think how many more babies would be breastfed and how many more families would benefit from bonding and healing in this time. It's not just about initiating breastfeeding it's about having the ability & support to also continue and not feel obligated to unrealistic expectations. We need to do better for our families & babies. We need to do better as people and understand that physical, emotional and mental health begins this early on in life. If we nurture ourselves and heal gently without feeling pressured to work, or "bounce back" we will feel rested and happy. If we bond and care for our babies instead of having to leave them early on with family or strangers imagine what this could do long term for the next generations? I could go on and on about why we need change and why it's scientifically proven and what we can do but the only way we'll ever see it, is if we as a whole change it.