It's almost incomprehensible that people in the 21st Century still have weird hang-ups about breastfeeding. That women who need to feed their baby in public should ever have a moment's hesitation, a split second of shame or embarrassment about breastfeeding, is unconscionable. And yet... it happens all the time. In countries all over the world, and to far more mothers than anyone probably realizes. This new breastfeeding survey highlights different concerns mothers have about the practice across the globe, and offers salient proof that no mother should feel alone in her struggle.
In support of World Breastfeeding Week, Global breastfeeding brand Lansinoh surveyed more than 12,000 mothers in nine countries who are either currently breastfeeding or have at least one child under the age of 2. Women in Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Mexico, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States between the ages of 18 and 40 were asked a variety of questions about their own breastfeeding experience. And the response from American mothers surveyed was surprising. According to Lansinoh:
- 89 percent of American mothers continue to believe breast is best.
- 88 percent of these mothers breastfeed for health benefits to their baby (According to the World Health Organization, "Breast milk promotes sensory and cognitive development, and protects the infant against infectious and chronic diseases. Exclusive breastfeeding reduces infant mortality due to common childhood illnesses such as diarrhea or pneumonia, and helps for a quicker recovery during illness.")
While these are positive indicators that American mothers still choose breastfeeding... that doesn't mean their decision is easy.
The survey by Lansinoh also found that mothers faced several challenges while breastfeeding — and one of the biggest ones was public breastfeeding. A full 26 percent of respondents found nursing while shopping to be a challenge, while 26 percent noted traveling with a breastfeeding baby was particularly difficult. And 12 percent of mothers found breastfeeding at work to be a struggle. Despite the fact that 65 percent of mothers found public breastfeeding to be natural, 20 percent of American moms admitted they've been shamed for it.
So how does the United States fare when it comes to breastfeeding support and access for new mothers? The survey found that 40 percent of American mothers used breastfeeding services and products provided by the Affordable Care Act — the same universal health care plan currently under review by the Trump administration. Around 40 percent of mothers also felt that access to lactation support would be useful, and 80 percent of mothers felt that maternity leave made a positive impact on their ability to breastfeed. The World Health Organization recommends a minimum of four months paid maternity leave to help mothers... no state in the country offers that much paid family leave and there is no federal policy that mandates any paid leave.
The reality is that breastfeeding requires support. We have managed to come a long way when it comes to supporting mothers who breastfeed (heck, there's several apps for it and counting) but the practice still requires compassion, and patience, and access to proper medical advice. While some mothers in the United States might be faring well, there is still vast room for improvement. Too many mothers continue to feel shamed for breastfeeding in public, or don't have access to support, or just feel alone in their struggle.
Hopefully, this survey will help remind mothers that they are not alone.