Breastfeeding. At what cost?

I admit, the title of the following article intrigued me enough to spend a few minutes reading it. Of course, my first thought was “breastfeeding is FREE, why wouldn’t someone be able to afford it?” As I read on, I had a better understanding of what the writer was telling me.

Our society can make it difficult for some to adapt to life with a new baby. Let’s face it, becoming a parent is hard. It’s hard without the added stress of work and day care and just trying to get by. I get it. I’ve been there, more times and for longer than I care to remember. The writer of this article had to return to work at a ridiculously early time and then try to balance working and pumping and, well, life. At 4 weeks post partum, a new mother is not even healed from the trauma that birth can trigger, not only physically, but emotionally as well. Babies aren’t sleeping longer than a couple of hours at a time and they rarely want to be put down. Breastfeeding on demand is still every couple of hours. Mothers (and their partners) are tired. Returning to work at this stage of the parenting game should be reserved for use as a type of torture method.

I live in New York, where breastfeeding laws are pretty generous. Unfortunately it is not like that in all parts of the country (and even in NY, many women still have to fight for this benefit). If your job isn’t supportive of your pumping efforts, a new mother will really struggle. Not only because she wants to be able to leave the milk for her baby, but also because her body will continue to make the milk and if there is no way out, it will be very uncomfortable. Anyone who has not been a nursing mother may not understand that at all.

This article made me sad. Sad for the mom who felt that she was forced to wean her baby earlier than she wanted because of her need to return to work. This is all too common. It made me sad that she wasn’t able to access the support she needed to find a way to make it work. I have been a Lactation Consultant for almost 10 years, and I have seen breastfeeding come a long way in that time. Laws have changed, support has increased, education has become more abundant, and breastfeeding rates have increased. It’s still not enough. In a society where mothers have to leave their baby at 6 weeks (for this mother it was 4) or go without a paycheck, we are not going to make the strides we need to make.

I give this mother all the credit in the world for going back to breastfeeding with her next baby, and the next. I imagine that she is a great source of support for other mothers she knows, just because of her struggle.

You can read the article here: http://www.sheknows.com/parenting/articles/1126378/breastfeeding-expensive

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