It’s World Breastfeeding Week and the internet and media is a buzz with chatter. It’s interesting to watch and be a part of this since EVERY week is “Breastfeeding Week” in my world! As a Nurse Midwife, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and owner of a retail store that caters to new and expecting parents, I have the opportunity and the privilege to help support, educate and inspire new parents to breastfeed every day.
The most current controversy it seems is the statement made by Brazilian born model Gisele Bündchen, where she said during an interview with Harper’s Bazaar UK, ”Some people here (in the US) think they don’t have to breastfeed, and I think ‘Are you going to give chemical food to your child when they are so little?’ [...] I think there should be a worldwide law, in my opinion, that mothers should breastfeed their babies for six months.”
Of course this statement caused the posting boards to light up in a fury of criticism as well as support, as evidenced in posts like this one someone just sent me from a CNN blog. When it comes to the age old “debate” over Breast vs. Bottle, there will always be the ones that are extreme in their views on either side. This particular statement by Giselle seemed to gather more consensus from both sides agreeing that creating a “law” to force moms to breastfeed is not only unrealistic but also unfair. Once again we are putting the blame on mothers “not wanting what is best for their babies” and further encouraging the bickering and judgment between breastfeeding mothers and formula feeding mothers. As always, we are never focused on the true “winners” in this fight, the pharmaceutical and food industry that generates $8 billion a year from the sale of infant formula.
Even as a strong advocate for breastfeeding, I have to say that I do not agree with the idea of creating a law to force mothers to breastfeed. I also think that Gisele was speaking about something she feels very passionate about without considering her influence as a celebrity and the negative impact her words would have on moms around the world. We need to be sensitive to each other.
All of the discussion over this issue is making me stop and question why we consider certain laws unfair, discriminatory and a violation of a parent’s right to “choose” what they believe is the right thing for their own child, while other laws “protecting” the health and well being of our children seem completely justified. A couple of examples that immediately come to mind are the laws requiring our children to wear seat belts, getting an education, and receiving mandatory childhood vaccinations. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying I disagree with having laws to protect the health of babies and children, just wondering as a society where we draw the line when we know scientifically that something is healthier or not.
I do think that there should be “laws” in place when it comes to breastfeeding. We have an overwhelming body of evidence to prove its benefits and normalcy as the first “choice” for the baby (even if it is not the first choice or possibility for the mom), and it is the recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization. However, breastfeeding laws should never be directed at the mother, forcing her to do something she does not want or is not able to do.
Instead, there are areas that in my opinion need more attention and public awareness, mandatory guidelines and even laws. Some of these areas would include:
• Strict adherence to the World Health Organization Code of Ethics
• Adoption of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative
• Prohibiting financial affiliations between hospitals, health care workers and formula companies
• Prohibiting formula companies from providing “Breastfeeding” education or websites
• Mandatory formal education and continuing education for breastfeeding for doctors, nurses and any heathcare workers involved with new or expecting moms
• Supportive work environments for breastfeeding moms
• Family Leave laws that encourage long-term breastfeeding
• Reimbursement for breastfeeding related care and products from health insurance companie
…and finally I do believe in choice, but I believe that REAL choice can only come from REAL knowledge.
In order to make the best decisions for yourself and your child you need to get educated and be fully informed.
Good quality breastfeeding education should be available to every mother regardless of their location, access, or ability to pay for it! I have made this my life mission; it is one area that I feel I can make a difference.
What are your thoughts?