Not Enough Milk?

What is causing this epidemic of “not enough milk” in mothers who are trying to breastfeed? I am glad that it didn’t happen before the invention of artificial baby milk formula, because if it had, a lot of us probably would not exist today. In fact, the human population would undoubtedly be much smaller, due to a high infant mortality rate.

I am not aware that this is a problem in areas (isolated areas in poor, developing countries); it seems to be a Western phenomenon. Of course, now that many women don’t take time out of the workforce to raise their children, “pumping” has become synonymous with breastfeeding. Perhaps that is part of the problem. But, then again, feeding *** milk to a baby, regardless of how, is better than using artificial milk.

Another problem is that culturally we still don’t accept breastfeeding as normal, natural and best for the baby. Women whose partners and family misguidedly oppose breastfeeding may have difficulty continuing it without this support, unless they are educated about and firmly committed to the practice. Education is the key; knowledge of the benefits of breastfeeding for mother, baby and family is likely to increase the number of women breastfeeding—ultimately changing the culture and other women’s behavior.

We know that we have an economic crisis and a health care crisis in the US. Breastfeeding can have a positive impact on both of those for individual families and the group alike. Study after study has shown the positive health impact on both mother and baby who breastfeed for at least 6 months and ideally, several years. And formula is expensive, yet it is replacing what is basically free food. Finally, breastfeeding is a great weight loss tool, using from 500 to 1000 calories per day—a sure way to make some inroads into the obesity problem that is enveloping the US population.

One way to advance the change to a culture of breastfeeding is to start at the top—with the President (to-be). We now have the perfect opportunity to do this by signing a petition put together by the United States Breastfeeding Committee in support of breastfeeding, with specific actions outlined. The petition can be found here.

Let’s make the New Year one for babies and the public health.

Cheryl K. Smith
Midwifery Today Managing Editor

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