In the US 85 % of mothers start breastfeeding shortly after the birth of their babies. By six months of age rates drop to 15%. There are many reasons for this. The lack of support for breastfeeding families is a significant factor. We don’t live in a breastfeeding culture. Families who choose to go beyond six months are often challenged for this decision by others who have chosen to stop. All breastfeeding, no matter how long, has advantages that out weigh any other kind of feeding. Most families know the many benefits of nourishing babies this way. Long term breastfeeding emphasizes the emotional aspects of life. Once a child is taking solids, breastfeeding remains the vital connection of security and self confidence that we all need to face the many challenges that life will bring.
Babies don’t care how big their house is or how pretty the nursery is. They don’t care if they have the latest and greatest stroller or furniture. They only want to be with their mothers and nurse on their schedule. They want to be clean and dry. They want to be held as much as possible. If you were a baby what would you want? Every month a baby gets to nurse beyond six months is a gift for life. Parents want to do what is best for their children. How long to breastfeed is one of the most important decisions parents will make. The majority of mother’s will be able to nurse if they can access support during the first few weeks.
No man made formulas can take the place of breast milk. Bottles can’t take the place of the breast. I encourage parents to find support for breastfeeding before they have their baby. It is very difficult to find them with postpartum hormones, birth fatigue and perhaps trauma, sleep deprivation and a screaming baby. There are many resources to choose from and it is easier than ever to find them on the internet. You can also locate resources on BirthLink.com. Breastfeed Chicago is a great local FaceBook page and blog. Many countries have someone going to the house to make sure everything is going well at no charge! Another big factor in success is support of the father/partner/family!
The key is to create support for breastfeeding before the baby is born. Practitioners can also direct parents to BirthLink for resources. Depending on doctors to support breastfeeding may not be a dependable resource. Most don’t have much training in this area. There are classes and books as well as support groups – some offered by medical facilities. Let’s get the numbers up to 85% long term breastfeeding!