Courtesy of Fotolia

We Need To Acknowledge That Exclusive Breastfeeding Is A Privilege — Not A Right

Ad failed to load

As the saying goes, "breast is best" — and there's lots of research to support that. Breastfeeding gives babies essential vitamins and nutrients, as well as antibodies that protect children from ear infections and diarrhea. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control claims that "one of the most highly effective preventative measures a mother can take to protect the health of her infant is to breastfeed.” But even though most of us agree that exclusive breastfeeding is a good thing, it's also a privilege that not all women can afford — and statistically speaking, it's a privilege that largely belongs to wealthy white women.

There's a ton of pressure on mothers to breastfeed, to the point that we, as a culture, have started referring to breastfeeding as an obligation, or a "job." Usually, this language is used one of two ways: to refer to how much work goes into exclusively breastfeeding a child, including long hours, late nights, and tons and tons of nipple cream; or to refer to how it's a mother's obligation to breastfeed. In 2010, supermodel Gisele Bündchen even told Harper’s Bazaar that "there should be a worldwide law... that mothers should breastfeed their babies for six months. Are you going to give chemical food to your child, when they are so little?”

Even though people like Bündchen might mean well, we need to stop this nonsense about how exclusive breastfeeding is a mother’s job. It’s not. It's a choice, and it's a choice that many women around the world simply do not have the luxury to make.

Ad failed to load
Nikolay Osmachko/Pexels.com

Both the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO)  recommend exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months, with no supplementation or solid foods. Yet few women actually achieve that goal. At six months, only about half of women, or 51.8 percent, are still breastfeeding at all. And according to the CDC's 2016 Breastfeeding Report Card, a mere 22.3 percent of women are able to exclusively breastfeed for the recommended minimum of six months.

So why is this? Well, for starters, breastfeeding is physically difficult: even if you don't struggle with getting your baby to latch, you could also be dealing with milk supply issues, sore nipples, or a tongue tie. But when we talk about which women are able to breastfeed and why, it's important to note that there are a ton of societal issues at play — and many of them favor upper middle-class white women.

Ad failed to load
We need to stop calling exclusive breastfeeding a mother’s job. Exclusive breastfeeding is a privilege, not a right.

According to 2008 CDC data, breastfeeding initiation rates are much higher in higher-income, largely white communitiesThey are significantly lower for African-American mothers, as well as Hispanic and Native American women. In fact, according to a study in Breastfeeding Medicine, mothers with lower rates of breastfeeding "tend to be young, low-income, African American, unmarried, less educated, participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), overweight or obese before pregnancy, and more likely to report their pregnancy was unintended.”

There are numerous reasons for this disparity. In low-income communities, there's less education about breastfeeding, and hospitals nurses are also more likely to encourage low-income black mothers to use formula. There's also a “negative perception” of breastfeeding in the black community, according to a 2015 study in Frontiers of Public Health. The researchers suggest that in the South in particular, this aversion to breastfeeding is partially due to the historical tradition of black women serving as wet nurses for white children.

Ad failed to load
Courtesy of mocker_bat/Fotolia

The lack of mandatory paid parental leave in the United States also complicates the breastfeeding relationship. If you can’t afford to take off six weeks after you give birth, it’s really hard to establish breastfeeding, mostly because establishing a nursing relationship requires round-the-clock nursing for the first few weeks.

If you have a job that doesn't allow you to pump at work or provide you with a clean place to do so, then you're also less likely to continue breastfeeding your child. Although federal law requires employers to provide accommodations for workers to pump, employers regularly break the law and fail to provide employees with a clean place to pump. Plus, if you're a freelancer, or if you work for a business with less than 50 employees, your boss is not required to give you time to pump at all. And that's assuming you can even afford a good pump to begin with. While Obamacare covers the cost of an electric breast pump, if you don't have insurance, you're SOL.

Ad failed to load
Courtesy of ivolodina/Fotolia

Breastfeeding is incredibly difficult, and there are numerous complications that can result from breastfeeding. Even if a mother desperately wants to breastfeed, she might not be able to, for numerous reasons — and the lack of social support and resources for low-income mothers or moms from marginalized communities is a big one.

So we need to stop calling exclusive breastfeeding a mother’s job. Breastfeeding is a privilege, not a right. If you have the access, ability, and resources to exclusively breastfeed, that is awesome. But before you look down your nose at the mom mixing a bottle on the park bench, you need to check your privilege instead.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

Umm, Toys "R" Us Has A BOGO 50 Percent Off Deal So You Better Stock Up

After the holidays, you were probably hoping that your kid's massive toy collection would keep him entertained for a little while, at least. But that was wishful thinking, wasn't it? Because now that a couple of months have passed, all those must-hav…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

Turns Out, Kim Kardashian's Favorite Mom Products Look A Lot Like Your Own Faves

Being a mom is really hard work, especially for the first few months, and Kim Kardashian West is no different in that regard. Now the mother of three, Kardashian says that there are a few products she just can't live without when it comes to raising …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

These 9 Instant Pot Recipes Will Make Even The Pickiest Eater Happy At The Table

Like any parent, I've had my share of parenting hits and misses, but one of my favorite "wins" is my daughter's diverse palate. I don't even know if I can take credit for it, but I would like to think I had something to do with her love for lentils, …
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Soda Might Hurt Your Fertility, Study Says, & Here's What You Can Do

Who doesn't love sugary drinks? I stopped drinking soda years ago, but I still love gulping down those fancy Starbucks coffee beverages. I don't have a big sweet tooth, but I am a sucker for sugar-sweetened beverages every now-and-then. Turns out, th…
By Annamarya Scaccia

10 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 30s

If you're like me, you evaluate the pros and cons of any major life decision. When my husband and I were considering starting a family, I thought about my career, education, and financial stability. I wanted to know how a pregnancy and childbirth wou…
By Steph Montgomery

This Woman Thought She Had An Eyelash Stuck In Her Eye. Then It Moved.

I'm not a person who is easily icked out. As a kid, I collected bugs and thought I was going to be an entomologist and asked Santa Claus for ant farms and nets to catch bees. I'm still super curious about anything that flies and crawls, which might s…
By Karen Fratti

A Hot Mess Mom's Guide To Surviving Winter

As I sit here at my home office in Connecticut, it's cold. Damn cold. Winter is a rough season in New England and it's even worse when you're a parent and have to manage cooped up, restless children. It's even worse when you're a hot mess as it is, u…
By Jamie Kenney

5 Red Flags Your Toddler Isn't Eating Enough

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, at least in my experience. You offer mashed potatoes, they want french fries. You give them crackers, they scream for chips. It's frustrating, to be sure, but it's usually their way of vying for independence. It…
By Candace Ganger

11 Ways Your Pregnancy Will Be Different If You Have A Boy Vs A Girl

If you've been pregnant before, you might start comparing your previous pregnancies to that of your current pregnancy. A lot of things can change from pregnancy to pregnancy, based on a whole host of different factors (including how well you remember…
By Lauren Schumacker

35 Moms Share The Most Disgusting Things Their Husbands Do

I'm a human being who revels in challenges. I like when people present me with one, especially if they don't think I can meet or succeed it, and I like taking a challenge on, especially if it's unexpected. So when I aimed to uncover the most disgusti…
By Jamie Kenney

How Having Kids In Your 20s Affects You Later In Life

For parents, like myself, who had kids in their 20s, there are a number of questions that come to mind. When you're deciding what your future will look like, you'll likely consider what this means for your health, career, and more down the line. Thin…
By Tessa Shull

8 Reasons I Let My Toddler Play Outside Unsupervised

I'm not a helicopter mom, but I'm not exactly a free-range parent either. I like to think of myself as safely ensconced somewhere in the middle. I insist on certain safety measures, like car seats and helmets. I prefer to keep my 2-year-old in my sig…
By Kimmie Fink

12 Moms Share How They Stay Healthy During Flu Season

Unfortunately, we're in the middle of the roughest flu seasons in recent memory. And we’re not totally out of the woods, either. People around the country are still getting the flu, and, sadly, some of them are having to be hospitalized due to flu-re…
By Priscilla Blossom

8 "Mistakes" I'm Glad I Made During My First Pregnancy

As an adult, I've learned you never really stop hating being told what to do. When I was pregnant I was getting instructions at every turn, from doctors, relatives, and complete strangers on the subway. I would nod and smile but then go about making …
By Liza Wyles

Study: Drinking Two Glasses Of Wine A Day Is Good For Your Mind — Here's Why

There’s more scientific proof that a daily drink or two isn't necessarily a bad thing and could have a place in an overall healthy lifestyle. A new study out of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in New York found that — in mice, at le…
By Tiffany Thomas

Research Says Eating Carbs Can Lead To A Healthy Pregnancy, So Bring On The Pasta

In the world of me, no food is better than bread. I know it's supposed to be pretty terrible for you, high in calories, low in protein, and full of that modern-day demon, gluten... but guys, it's really yummy. Especially warm out of the oven, when th…
By Jen McGuire

These Photos Of Prince George Then & Now Will Give You Serious Baby Fever

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child in Spring 2018. With all of the excitement surrounding the new baby, it's easy to forget all of the good times that have already passed. The couple's eldest is already well into the sc…
By Azure Hall

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
By Lindsay E. Mack