Breastfeeding Perceptions

By Jill Lancaster

A few months ago I was at a local mall in the eatery with my family. As I was leaving, I noticed a young mother with several family members beginning to breastfeed her baby under a cute cover-up. I couldn’t contain my approval, and I walked up to this cute mom to tell her so.

breastfeeding image
As I approached this young mother, I could see the faces of each grandmother turn leery. I think they fully expected me to chastise their daughter for breastfeeding in a public place. Instead, I simply told her how proud I was of her for breastfeeding her baby there. I wanted her to know how helpful it is for other breastfeeding moms to see. Thankfully each of their faces softened as I spoke to them, and I think my little talk was a good thing. 

But I wonder how often breastfeeding moms get comments that are negative or hurtful.
 
The truth is the scientific evidence is overwhelming: breastfeeding is best for moms and babies. Breastfeeding also benefits our economy, and lowers the ever-increasing cost of health care. And yet our society and many medical professionals still have a level of discomfort with the whole idea of supporting breastfeeding. 

Several years ago, a popular baby magazine featured a breastfeeding mother on their cover. The public response was not good. They received many letters stating that the cover was “gross” or “inappropriate”. With this type of opinion surrounding breastfeeding, is it any wonder moms in the United States give up early? Is feeding a baby the way Mother Nature intended really gross?

Interestingly, this opinion is not shared by many other cultures outside of the United States. For instance, in Mongolia, breastfeeding is expected and celebrated by everyone in their society. Breastfeeding moms in this third world country are cheered on by every stranger they meet. Eyes are not averted when a mom breastfeeds her baby, instead they are given a loving smile of approval. When a breastfeeding mother enters a store, the owner offers a chair for the mom to feed in and encourages her to stay as long as she needs. The entire culture embraces every part of breastfeeding for as long as the mother feels comfortable.  

What would it be like in the United States if breastfeeding mothers where encouraged, supported, and even cheered on by the majority of society around her? Would this type of encouragement and support make a difference for you? 

In my perfect little lactation world I hope that one day our society will encourage and promote the success of each and every breastfeeding mother, whatever her idea of success is.