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4 Bumps

Ease obstacles to breast-feeding, says surgeon general

WASHINGTON — How long a new mom breast-feeds can boil down to hassles at work, whether her doctor ever stressed how super-healthy it is, even whether Grandma approves.

The surgeon general is issuing a call Thursday to eliminate obstacles to breast-feeding — and working moms may see the first steps: The new health care law requires that many employers start offering "reasonable" break times to pump milk and a private place to do it. No, the company bathroom no longer counts.

Breast-feeding benefits both baby and mother but it isn't always easy. Three-quarters of U.S. mothers say they breast-feed during their baby's first days and weeks. But within six months, that drops to 43 percent who are breast-feeding at least sometimes and just 13 percent who follow recommendations that babies receive only breast milk during that first half-year of life.

"The hardest thing is to keep it up, because our society and our culture aren't there to support them," said Surgeon General Regina Benjamin. "They really shouldn't have to go it alone."

Research has long made clear the benefits of breast-feeding. Breast-fed babies suffer fewer illnesses such as diarrhea, earaches and pneumonia, because breast milk contains antibodies that help fend off infections. They're also less likely to develop asthma, or even to become fat later in childhood. Nursing mothers shed pregnancy pounds faster, and if they breast-feed long enough can decrease their risk of breast or ovarian cancer.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says breast milk alone provides optimal nutrition for babies for about the first six months, the time when most babies begin solid foods, and that breast-feeding should continue to age 1.

By 2020, the government hopes to have 82 percent of women start breast-feeding and raise to about a quarter those whose babies are exclusively breast-fed for about six months. Today, those rates are lowest for black babies, with 58 percent starting out breast-fed and 8 percent exclusively breast-fed for six months.

Mothers who cannot or choose not to breast-feed shouldn't be made to feel guilty, Benjamin said.

But for those who want to, her office took a closer look at the obstacles and found plenty.

Women whose own mothers and grandmothers didn't breast-feed lack support and even may face skepticism, said Benjamin. She urged education of family members, including dad, during prenatal visits — and noted that breast-feeding can save up to $1,500 in infant formula in the first year of life.

Doctors and hospitals should stress the benefits of breast-feeding, before and at delivery. Certified lactation consultants can help ensure women get help with such issues as how the baby latches on and how to ease breast discomfort, she said.

But a big focus is on employers, to make sure moms have the time and privacy to pump milk when they return to work.

"It makes economic sense for the company," Benjamin stressed. "Women miss less time at work when the babies are healthy, and there's retention of their good employees."

That's why AOL Inc. created what it calls "mothers' rooms" in its offices in 15 cities around the country. They're quiet nursing spots that come equipped with two different kinds of breast pumps so moms don't have to haul as much gear, and part of a broader program that also includes access to lactation consultants that serves about 100 families a year.

The investment paid off, said vice president Gillian Pon: Since 2003, the company has seen a jump in employee breast-feeding and a drop in health claims for sick newborns.

What do you think? Going too far, not far enough?

Answer Question

Asked by LeanneC at 11:30 AM on Jan. 20, 2011 in Politics & Current Events

Level 18 (6,435 Credits)
Answers (9)
  • i think its a good idea

    Answer by pookipoo at 11:31 AM on Jan. 20, 2011

  • I don't know that a special room is necessary. I'd have been happy with a closed kitchen, or bathroom where I work, so long as I could lock the door and keep people out for a little bit and my employer allowed the time it took to pump. I do know one of my co-workers pumped in our staff kitchen when she needed to. I just quit my job when I was 5mos pregnant the first I'm 6 mos with my second, and planning to go through as much of my pregnancy as I can manage, but I'm only working two days a week, and only 4 hours a it's easier on me than it was the last time around (Working at the same place..glad they took me back after a two year maternity break, hah!)

    Answer by BisketLiss at 11:36 AM on Jan. 20, 2011

  • I think it's a great thing. I breastfed all 3 of ours and the first reason I did was it was the healthiest for our boys 1st yr. The other reasons were that it was free, and easy for me. I was able to stay home though. We made the sacrifice to our income for our boys benefit... That doesn't always work though... There are some that just can't....
    I do believe if people would stop trying to keep up with the jones's, with cars, houses they can't afford, credit cards, etc, a lot more Moms would be able to stay home and breastfeed for the recommended year... JMO.

    Answer by MrsLeftlane at 11:39 AM on Jan. 20, 2011

  • i dont see it hurting anything and for those working it would be beneficial. but i found the problem was with feeling like a failure when i had problems after the first week, not a lack of support. all the LCs at the hospital couldnt help me and the stress of failing just made it worse. not to mention the breast nazis (which at the time seemed to be everywhere) who just couldnt help but make me feel worse no matter what i did.

    i cant help but wonder how many of those women who stop breastfeeding arent working and quit BFing for reasons not addressed by the SG. how do we help them?

    Answer by okmanders at 11:42 AM on Jan. 20, 2011

  • Bisket, I don't think they're talking about creating a special "just-for-pumping" room, just having something available that's not a bathroom and that others can be kept out of, even if it's an unused meeting room or something.

    I think this is a great step. So many women stop even trying because they feel it's just not worth the hassle, when the hassle shouldn't be there if this is what they want to do. No one can dispute the fact that breast is best, and yet no one seems to want to act on it. This makes me happy.

    And by the way, I think it's awesome that AOL even provides pumps! (Not saying this should be a required norm, just that I really admire them for going that extra step.) :)

    Answer by DragonRiderMD at 11:44 AM on Jan. 20, 2011

  • "i cant help but wonder how many of those women who stop breastfeeding arent working and quit BFing for reasons not addressed by the SG. how do we help them? "

    This is what I was thinking. I just don't feel that working is the biggest obstacle, I mean you have to make it through the first 6 weeks first. And, unfortunately many women are given horrible advice from the people who *should* know better. The surgeon general is telling the medical community to stress the importance of it... but doing that and then turning around and sabotaging a women's best efforts to nurse will just make them feel like failures. That's just not fair.

    Why is he not stressing continued education for the medical community on breastfeeding and the importance of treating the nursing pair and not just one or the other of them?

    Comment by LeanneC (original poster) at 11:53 AM on Jan. 20, 2011

  • The SG did cite the things I've most commonly seen over the past decade. The three biggest threats for a breastfeeding mom are an uninformed medical community (and okmander, that sounds like a big part of what you dealt with), an unsupportive environment (because most new moms simply aren't secure enough to say "the hell with you" to naysayers) and a lack of education. Work comes in fourth, in my experience.

    I think we need to push for better education of our daughters FIRST.

    Answer by gdiamante at 2:52 PM on Jan. 20, 2011

  • I say great if a business wants to put in a boobie room but they should not be forced

    Answer by itsmesteph11 at 3:05 PM on Jan. 20, 2011

  • itsmesteph11, the law says nothing about a "boobie room" but that the employer must provide a private room. This could be an office with a lock, a conference room, a private break room. The room does not have to be a room that is only used for the purpose of pumping.

    Answer by daughteroftruth at 12:40 AM on Jan. 21, 2011

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