The other day, I posted about the breastfeeding “supplies” I have used over the past six years (cumulative) I have been breastfeeding.
Ever since then, I have been thinking about what items I really needed. I think it’s funny that I totally forgot about breast pads! I was a heavy leaker and used breast pads for at least four months with each baby. I honestly think I could have breastfeed without them all. It certainly would have been tougher, but possible.
From time to time, I come across contests or articles showcasing “breastfeeding essentials”. This always make me laugh. Why? Honestly, in most cases, all that is needed to breastfeed successfully is a breast. At the same time that it makes me laugh, I also find it irritating that these items are being touted as essential. Necessary. Like as if to say that if a women doesn’t have these items, and she fails at breastfeeding, it was her fault for not having the right tools. And that makes me mad. Breastfeeding Booby Traps like that make me sad.
Yes, in some cases, women need material things to ensure that breastfeeding is successful. A woman with IGT might need help from a prescription drug, such as Domperidone. A Mother with flat or inverted nipples might need to use a breast pump or (under the care of a LC) use breast shells. A woman who becomes a Mother through the beautiful act of adoption might use a SNS or Lact-Aid to facilitate and induce lactation with her child. A woman that feels uncomfortable breast feedng in public might want a nursing cover. A Mother who cannot produce enough milk or for a medical reason should not breastfeed might use donor milk.
However, it is my fear that advertising contests with breastfeeding “essentials” will scare Mothers and do more harm than good. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad that any truly requisite products are marketed. Who determines what is really needed though? Most of these items I would consider to be luxuries and in most cases a marketing trick, preying upon the insecurities of a woman about to embark on the emotional journey of feeding and nourishing her young.
Instead of calling these items essential or necessary, why not focus on the items that can help every breastfeeding Mother?
Let’s focus on support groups. Let’s focus on sharing the scientific facts from research on breast milk. Let’s focus on improving legislation to support breastfeeding Mothers who choose to nurse in public – no matter the age of the child (!). Let’s improve legislation to increase the breastfeeding success of Mothers who work outside the home. Let’s work on increasing the ease of informed milk sharing. Let’s focus on uncovering the WHO violations of formula companies. Let’s talk about what an IBCLC is, how to find one, and how to urge Hospitals to hire more. Let’s encourage conversations about breastfeeding.
Let’s support Mothers by being honest about breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is not always easy. Some days you will want to stop. Some days you will cry at the thought of stopping. Any amount of breastfeeding is better than none. It is okay to combination feed; both formula and breast milk. There are safe ways to use donor breast milk. There are women who will for no reason (other than love) donate their breast milk. Some women produce enough milk for multiple babies (with no extra effort). It’s okay to ask for help. Some women breastfeed easily while their own sister struggles to breastfeed. Some breastfeeding problems resolve on their own within days. Others may take months. The size of a woman’s breasts has NOTHING to do with the amount of milk they will produce.
What do you think? Does calling certain items necessary for breastfeeding help or hurt women? What do you think needs to change to increase breastfeeding rates?