Saturday, November 7, 2015

Breastfeeding is a Commitment Worthy of Being Paid For!

Recommendations are to "breastfeed exclusively for the first 6 months" and I have probably repeated this statement over a thousand times - always with the intention of informing women, mothers. 

But today, the day I reach this goal, I now understand the enormity of this statement. The unfathomable weight I have placed on women's shoulders when I so confidently uttered it. 

I'm sorry for my previous naivete! 

Because exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months isn't easy to do and I think for most women in the U.S., it is NEAR IMPOSSIBLE.

Let me explain...

I had it 'easy' compared to many moms when it comes to trying to exclusively breastfeed for 6 whole months. Not only am I well versed in the mechanics of breastfeeding (I've been in the field for almost 8 years), but more importantly, I work from home.

I am beyond thankful that I have been able to spend every day of this past 6 months with my precious bundle of perpetual energy and, for the last two months, my husband has been able to be home with us.

...and exclusively breastfeeding my baby was still a challenge!

Breastfeeding is a skill that takes time to learn. Some moms have a rough go of it, in my case, where the only issues we faced seemed minor (thrush, nipple pain), there were still many many times when I felt overwhelmed by the commitment of it.

Breastfeeding while working full-time started to make it feel like a chore, which broke my heart. My baby deserved my attention, a time-out from the world for connection between the two of us, but so often work related topics clouded my time with her.

Trying to juggle work tasks and full-time breastfeeding was exhausting!

Babies eat often, oh so often!, round the clock. Taking 10-30 minutes every two or three hours to feed them is challenging for anyone... especially when you have a thousand other pressing things to do.

Not to mention that even when you aren't actively feeding your baby... you are thinking about feeding them. It was a struggle to slowly learn how to focus on things other than my baby. My body is hard-wired to need her near me all the time, so focusing on working was sometimes impossible. 

Working and mothering :-) Multi-tasking level: expert!
... and I can't even imagine trying to do this if you work out of the home! To me, that seems a near-impossible task.

It's worth it, don't get me wrong. I have always known I'd breastfeed my babies, rain or shine and I have loved far more of this journey than I've wished away... and even those moments I wish away, I remember to be thankful for them later!

But I'm lucky... I got to stay home with my baby...

A mother working out of the home, well she has to pump, and pump, and pump, and pump.... when she should just be able to feed her baby, to respond to her baby when he needs her, and to adapt to this new human and her role as a mother. 

But this isn't possible when over HALF of American mothers return to work when their baby is only 5 weeks old. (link)


It really isn't surprising, then, that most women don't reach their own breastfeeding goals, I couldn't even tell my right from left when my baby was 5 weeks old... and we are expecting mothers to LEAVE THEIR BABY to return to work full time!?

Oh yeah, and keep giving that breastmilk... pump, pump, pump!

Just another thing for an exhausted and stressed mother to do... and it comes at a cost. 

A cost to our mental health, to the health of our families and children - and in the end, our nation will suffer for it.

No amount of free pumps, or workplace time for pumping, or home visits from IBCLCs (all things we certainly DO need more of!) is going to get all women to this goal. 

Support means letting mothers and fathers spend time with their newborn babies. Letting them navigate the new (non)sleeping schedules and the world of rapidly, ever-changing babies from home; together.

So here's the thing... we need to stop placing this expectation, this lofty lofty goal, squarely on the shoulders of mothers, because it isn't them we need to convince. 

It isn't mothers who need to work harder, is EVERYONE ELSE!

Politicians, employers, educators, doctors, nurses, researchers, and aunts and uncles, fathers and grandparents... ALL OF US!

Breastfeeding takes work and sometimes a lot of it. It is a commitment worthy of being paid for. It deserves respect as one of the most certain ways to improve our nation's health, but also as something that isn't just a stroll in the park. 

If we care about children, if we want healthier babies and healthier families, and if we ultimately want to improve the health and well-being of our country, then PAID parental LEAVE is a MUST. 

Nursing at Denver Airport!
Plain and simple.

Babies deserve to be breastfed and mothers deserve to achieve their breastfeeding goals, but it is everyone else that needs to step up now and make that happen.

Babies deserve better than this. We can do better than this. 

Do you agree?

~Wisdom and Birth

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