‘In 1970, breastfeeding rates in Norway were as low as those in Britain today. Then Norway banned all advertising of artificial formula milk completely. They offered a year’s maternity leave on 80% of pay and, on the mothers’ return to work, an hour’s breastfeeding break every day. Today 98% of Norwegian women start out breastfeeding, and 90% are still nursing four months later.’ ~ Deborah Jackson
I read this and thought it was inspiring. So I posted it on my FB page. Then I read it a second time, and it got me thinking. Ninety percent of women in Norway are still going strong at four months. Ninety Percent! Only ten percent of women are not breastfeeding. Ten Percent!
But here in the formula dependent United States seventy-five percent of mothers initiate breastfeeding and only forty-three percent are still breastfeeding at six months (CDC Breastfeeding Report Card 2010). Now a huge chunk of the problem is that we have awful maternity leave conditions and so many moms have to go back to work far too soon. But what drives me nuts is the way we look at breastfeeding in this country.
When Cooper was a few weeks old I took him for a check up at the pediatrician. The office was running late (as usual) so I stood in the waiting room and nursed him in the babyhawk. Two very young, (one of which was very pregnant) girls behind me began talking about breastfeeding- and the non-preggy one commented that I made it look so easy but it wasn’t- she had tried for five whole days but her milk never came in. The other made faces and told her friend she couldn’t “do THAT. It’s, like, gross to have a baby suck on your boob. Formula is way better.”
If I had a nickel for every time someone told me “I wanted to nurse but I COULDN’T because my breasts wouldn’t make milk.” I would be blogging from a gold-plated laptop by now. If it was really THAT difficult, if milk “didn’t come in” THAT often, we would never have survived as a species. Most women can breastfeed. But if you live in a country with poor breastfeeding rates it is almost like preparing for a war. You have to be confident that you WILL do this for your baby. You have to educate yourself, and arm yourself with a lactation consultant and facts and figures to wave in the faces of your family and friends. Because so many unqualified (or just plain ignorant) people will be ready and waiting with bad advice, misinformation and bottles of free formula.
I don’t understand why we have such weird ideas about something that should be thought as normal and natural. My own mother recently told me “My mother HAD to breastfeed me for a whole year because we were too poor to afford formula.” Or as an even worse example, I stumbled across a twitter conversation about breastfeeding where one pregnant woman tweeted “Organic formula is way better than anything that comes out of my tits.” *face palm*
In any case, either Norwegian women have weird super boobs OR the majority of women are giving up too quickly or getting booby trapped. Imagine how well we could do if all mothers could be part of a culture that understands the importance of breastfeeding!