Why Women in the U.S. ‘Overreact’; Lack of Breastfeeding Support

by Mrs. BWF on July 6, 2012

I recently shared Pink’s picture she posted on Twitter. She was on a break while on set, nursing and bonding with her baby girl. The comments that followed were a huge mix of support, questioning if she was really nursing, and then nasty comments which I removed. All I see is awesomeness. I am baffled by the hate that can come of a breastfeeding picture such as this.

I then wrote this post about the ‘breastfeeding friendly’ bag given to moms after they birth their babies in the hospital. The cute bag filled with formula goodies is far from supportive.

After posting it, I received an email that made me step back and realize that not everyone around the world will understand why it’s so important to raise awareness about breastfeeding in the U.S. Many of our UK and other worldly readers may not understand why I post many breastfeeding pictures and posts.

Part of this email read:

Dear BWF,

I wanted to write to congratulate you on your blog and everything you stand for. Writing from the UK, I often read what you have to say with awe, inspired by your morals and the wonderful empowerment you are helping so many mothers and mothers to be to find.

However, very occasionally, I have felt like you must be over reacting, creating controversy for controversy’s sake if you will-surely no one can be that against breast feeding…can they?

Reading your recent blog about the bags given to mothers of newborns, a light bulb came on some where and I realised that actually, things are very very different where you are.

The point I am trying to make is that although yes, we do get dirty looks from old men while feeding in the park, the occasional snide remark from a teenager, on the whole everybody is very pro breast feeding.

As I’m sure you know, the government here have banned advertising and coupons on formula milk under 6 months and to be fair that has worked wonders.

I guess what I really want to do is apologise for thinking you were over reacting. I had no idea until reading your blogs how anti breastfeeding parts of your country are, and although I can’t understand why things are like they are, like all your fans, I support you in fighting them every step of the way. Keep putting up your banned photos, they are beautiful, just like your beliefs.

If a woman half way across the world, via the internet, can get it…why can’t women (and men) in our own country get it?

We are not over reacting.

We are simply reacting.

Reacting to harsh criticism. Reacting to unnecessary judgments. Reacting to the lack of support. Reacting to the acceptance of women’s bodies being used to sell sex and items, but being told to cover when feeding their children. Reacting to formula companies ‘and associates’ forcing their powder down our throats or better yet, the throats of our babies.

We are reacting to the fact that we even have to react. We just want support and acceptance to feed our babies the way we are meant to! So don’t worry, I will definitely keep on fighting, reacting and pushing for change.

~January

Here are some lovely BWF mother breastfeeding photos. “Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.” ~J.K. Rowling

Sent in by Kristin F…

“This is one of my favs, a pic of me and my baby daughter (Aurora) 3 days old having a feed on the beach in Western Australia. I breastfeed anywhere and everywhere. I am feeding while typing. I think that all my friends are now used to it and accepting! Boobs out gals! Love your page and all you do!” ~Heather

 “These are of my precious daughter Ella; 13 days young. Born via cesarean on March 17th, 2011 at 11:55 p.m.” ~Monica W.

 Michelle and Zooey…

 “My 7 month and I. This afternoon nursing session is what gets me through my work day.” ~Whitney

 “My two fave breastfeeding pics. The first picture Facebook removed.” ~Ishil K.

“It’s been seven years since i breastfed that baby girl. Today she is an amazing child.” ~Amanda K.

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Kellie Hill July 6, 2012 at 9:55 am

I would just like to say that, while I know that many women still get a lot of negativism where breastfeeding is concerned and that’s awful, I had a very encouraging experience this weekend. I was at a family reunion (people I almost never see, in rural Pennsylvania) and nursed my 2 1/2 year old daughter several times :) I got no negative feedback or weirdness at all!

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Debbie July 6, 2012 at 10:02 am

Restating a post you had several days ago, “the only people we owe an explanation to are our children”. Press on Mamas!! God will be glorified for our efforts and our children will be thankful.

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amanda July 6, 2012 at 10:11 am

I absolutely miss breast feeding… literally brings tears to my eyes. I never had support from family when my daughter was born. I didn’t produce a lot of milk and my mother in law told me i was starving my daughter. I quickly switched to formula and regretted it then and still do. When i had my son, I was committed, the hospital was very supportive and WIC gave me a VERY supportive lactation support net. I had a sponsor I could call day or night ans it felt amazing to have people on my side! I breast fed my son past 12 months and even conserdered going longer… I really wish more people say the beauty in breast feeding, the bonding is life changing aswell

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Appollonia July 6, 2012 at 11:59 pm

I really feel you on this subject that it helps a lot when you have support and the knowledge to handle all that Breastfeeding is about. My husband is somewhat against me Breastfeeding our son after his one year birthday. Even though I only feed him in the morning before daycare and nighttime feedings, he still has the same comment as others; incl Breastfeeding moms who only went up to 6months and stop because the doctors said it didn’t have any benefits after that. Which I say BS and plus done the research. I plan to Breastfeed my son until his teeth starts to really hurt me on a constant basis and he wants milk more and more and nursing less, only in the combination, I plan to stick it out because I think it truly helps my son and good in that it benefits me also.

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Rachel July 6, 2012 at 10:13 am

So very glad to hear that this message resounded with someone. I keep working and hoping and praying our country will catch up with WHO guidelines and stop allowing the medical community to promote formula companies’ products. This is an incredibly dangerous practice that greatly contributes to the formula feeding costs our country faces of 10.5 million dollars a year (not including the formula itself) and at least 911 babies’ lives, not to mention the toll on obesity and diabetes and food allergies that arise from not providing a baby with breast milk.
http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/04/05/breastfeeding.costs/index.html?eref=igoogle_cnn
http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/129/3/e827.full?sid=45299156-71bc-46f3-abfe-e0393fcec3d8#T2

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Stephanie July 6, 2012 at 11:19 am

This makes my day. My in laws have always been supportive of bfing but my family insisted I go in another room or cover up. Now that dd is past 1 it’s ten times worse. Thank you for sharing your private email with us, and as always for your amazing blog!

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Tracy Williams July 6, 2012 at 2:09 pm

I just want to add that I have had very positive experiences breastfeeding lately. I’ve traveled a lot recently and have flown with my baby. She just turned 9 months and has been exclusively breast fed and has actually not even had a bottle. So on a plane she’s definitely going to need to nurse. I’m discreet and try not to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but every single time I get words of support from both men and women. Maybe I’ve been lucky, but I do hope that things are changing in our country!! I do agree that putting free formula in the welcome bags in the hospital sends huge mixed messages and wish that practice would stop. With my first, it made it much too easy to succumb to pressure to formula feed when I was tired and stressed out those critical first few weeks and I almost gave up. I’m so glad I stuck it out, though!! I’ve now nursed 3 babies at least a year each and am on month 9 with baby number 4. This website is awesome and so encouraging to new moms and soon to be moms!!

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klboyd July 6, 2012 at 4:57 pm

I wish I was brave enough to share my BF pics…even on ym very closed/restricted FB I am *afraid* (for the lack of a better word) of offending someone…really? why has it come to this? Why when out and about am I afraid to feed my child? Why di I let the remarks bother me, even though they are more geared towards how large my boobs are then what I am actually doing…Welcome to America…

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Maggie July 6, 2012 at 5:00 pm

I wanted to share this because it actually surprised me at the tenderness that was seen while I was breast feeding. Generally the only time I hear a comment it is negative. On the day my mother passed (my sons 1 month birthday) one of the nurses cared for her for the last time and while cleaning her described to her that I was nursing my son, and told her what beautiful values she had instilled in me. Every day from the day I left the hospital I was in hospice with her, and always was nursing my very hungry boy. Because of the nature of hospice, infants and breastfeeding is not common.

Later, a group of acoustic singers came in to sing to her as she passed. This is the email that was sent to me later from one of the singers:

I want to express my condolences to you on the loss of your mother, and to tell you what a moving experience it was to see you lovingly nursing Solomon on the night your mother died. I was among the singers who came to her room and was struck at the contrast of one life just beginning and one ending…

I just wanted to share how such a “normal” activity in my life touched someone so much.

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Kristin July 6, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Awesome.

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Jessica July 9, 2012 at 8:40 am

How beautiful.

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Terri July 6, 2012 at 5:49 pm

I live in Canada and I know that women are respectful and cover up when breastfeeding but I would hope that they wouldn’t be ashamed or turned away from it by brainwashing companies trying to sell their products. I really hope that people see what a beautiful thing breastfeeding is and how it makes that beautiful bond between mother and child when first born and as they grow! I feel so strongly about this as I had a breast reduction due to health issues and I couldn’t breast feed with my first child and I couldn’t believe the difference of breastfeeding with my second child. Not that I don’t love my children the same but even for health reason (the child gets better immune systems with breast feeding) my younger son was always healthier and we are really close. So I feel that women should breastfeed and create the bond and healthier life for their child and say the heck with what other people say!! We see half naked women all the time in ads and such and it has become part of our culture so why can’t a beautiful thing like breastfeeding be included. The way children are these days so disrespectful and detached maybe not breastfeeding has been a part of that because there is no bond, just a thought. You see women in third world countries walking around bare breast and feeding their children and you don’t hear of their children running around shooting people and out of control, just saying! I am a Nana now and I loved watching my daughter in law breast feed and see the love she has for them on her face as she watches them and I know that they will be loved.

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Kate July 6, 2012 at 6:12 pm

when a trusted health professional gives you formula, it provides the foundation for doubts and problems. maybe if nurses handed out pamphlets for human milk for human babies instead of cans of formula, more babies would be breastfed. This is not a common practice in Ontario, however, welcome wagon visits the hospital and gives out formula among other things as a ‘gift’ to new mothers. samples are easy to get, and are offered through other sources as well.

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Sonia July 6, 2012 at 7:02 pm

I’m living in Korea right now, and MAN, do they LOVE babies!! It’s quite funny…when I’m out, I try to be discreet and use my nursing cover. Korean women will come up, lift the cover and peer right in. :) Sometimes they will even try to stroke the baby’s head while she is nursing. (Touching babies is good luck in Korea.) All the time, I get a big smile and a thumbs up for breastfeeding.

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L'Briska Robertson July 6, 2012 at 9:40 pm

I have been so encouraged by your blog and others in support of breastfeeding. I really feel I will be able to press on with our little one due in August. Our previous children (last one was 8 years ago) only got a few months of my milk due to flat nipples and I never received the help or information that I have received since becoming pregnant again. I remember feeling like a complete failure and crying my eyes out because I had not been able to provide my babies with what God gave me for longer than I did. I truly feel empowered now and know that I will always be able to seek support (albeit from an online source) even in the middle of the night, as we are all over the world, and I absolutely can’t wait to get started with our next one. I know it will hurt, I know I will probably bleed, I will probably feel frustrated, but I will not give up this time. Thank you and God bless!

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Stacey July 6, 2012 at 10:27 pm

Here in Aus, no formula companies advertise milk for under 12 months. Many hospitals will not supply you with formula unless two HCP’s and the mother have signed it out. When my milk took 6 days to come in and I began what would be a brutal 7 months of supply issues, mastitis and stress I thought it cruel. Now I realise that all the support I received from health carers who believed breast milk to be the ONLY option meant my son got 7 months of breast milk he would otherwise have missed out on. If I lived in the US I think my experience would have been very different. The only time I was ever made to feel uncomfortable breastfeeding openly was by American tourists, from the land of the free.

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Monica July 7, 2012 at 6:10 pm

I have to say that I am so happy that I got the chance to breastfeed and everything worked the way it did. After my cesarean, my daughter had a hard time latching since we did not have immediate skin to skin. I breastfed her exclusively for 13 months and boy those 13 months were a treat ;) My daughter and I are in pictures #3 & 4. I also have to add that I was 19 there and it seems that a lot of young moms (not all) choose not to breastfeed for whatever reason. I am glad that I was able to breastfeed and my age was not going to stop me :)

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Elizabeth Glover July 8, 2012 at 11:51 pm

I was not lucky enough to produce much breast milk due to complications & medications & So I never realized what a huge issue & fight it has been for nursing moms to be able to nurse their babies in public without the ridicule of people around them (which is quite evident, since dirty looks & under the breath & not so under the breath comments are hard to miss) So, After reading some of these comments I’ve realized how encouraging it is for nursing moms when they get the positive reinforcement that the truly deserve from people around them & that fact, has encouraged me to start at least dropping a few words of praise to nursing mothers from now on when I see them. :-)

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Pamela McMaster July 11, 2012 at 6:40 pm

I had zero support – though admittedly no real resistance – after my first son was born. I was pretty much left to my own devices to figure it all out. I thought when I went to work when he was 3 1/2 months pregnant, I had to stop nursing — I had no understanding of pumping at work, etc (of course, this WAS 1984). I always mourned that decision. When I had my daughter, I was a little wiser and did a lot of searching. Thank GOD for my LeLeche League chapter!!! I was suddenly empowered to nurse my daughter everywhere and anywhere — and didn’t wean her until I was 6 months pregnant with her younger brother (who weighed in at 9lbs – so that whole “you’re taking away from the growing fetus thing is bunk). These are some of the experiences that led me to maternity nursing and labor and delivery. I wanted to make sure my new mothers could find the support and the voice they needed to follow THEIR conscience! It’s such a pity the way the formula companies do what they do. I love that Britain has banned the print ads etc targeted at moms with babies up to 6 months.

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Zarela de Neyra July 11, 2012 at 11:02 pm

Question! I am nursing my 14 months Baby and I Love It. But I just realize that I have 4 weeks pregnant! Is Ok if I still nursing my ole Baby? If not… How can I stop this!?

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Lara July 12, 2012 at 1:45 am

My quick comment is this: I say we should all be proud, happy and carefree about nursing our babies anytime, anywhere. Nursing covers? Whatever. It’s too damn hot in the dead of summer for our precious babies to have to sweat under those things. They should just be trying to relax, enjoying a meal. :)

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Rebecca July 15, 2012 at 9:45 am

Zarela – It is totally okay to keep breastfeeding while you are pregnant. Some mothers will even continue nursing with new baby and older baby. There’s lots of info you can read up on about it if you want to learn more and decide for sure if it’s something you want to do. I think the Leaky Boob might have some info on it. I’m hoping to keep breastfeeding when I get pregnant again but I struggle with low milk supply and horrible morning sickness so not sure if it will be ideal for us but we’ll see :) Congrats and good luck!

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Kristen July 18, 2012 at 4:46 pm

I will tell you how bad society has made it for women. I am 27, recently married and doing research before we try to get pregnant. While I think breast feeding is absolutely best for the child, society has confused me to the point of not being able to imagine doing it myself because I feel I will be sexually abusing my child. I am reading and studying images to try to get over this irrational fear, and at the very least will want to pump and give the baby my milk, I think the bonding is very important and hope with time and more reading on sites likes this, i can get over these fears.

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wondersbaby October 7, 2012 at 12:09 pm

It might help you (and other pregnant women) to visit LaLecheLiga meetings during the pregnancy. You can see others breastfeeding their babies and learn a lot. You can get in touch with a lactation consultant, which makes it easy to ask for support, if breastfeeding problems arise after the birth of you baby.

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Krishna July 24, 2012 at 12:39 am

Thank you for your website and especially this page on breastfeeding.

I read website comments and am shocked at the attitude towards breastfeeding as if it were something strange. Why do women need the doctor’s permission for every little thing???

This culture of giving anonymous others the right to decide what happens to our bodies is spreading like a disease everywhere.

Thank you for your anti-fear website. You’re AWESOME!

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Sara B January 1, 2013 at 10:15 am

As the Mommy of a beautiful 7 year old boy,whom I nursed for 9 months, and an OBGYN nurse, I tend to be offended by your blatant lack of empathy for Mommies who simply cannot nurse their babies. Most of our Moms go into pregnancy and childbirth with the assumption that breast feeding is the only way to feed their baby. But, speaking for MANY of our Moms, surprise!!, the milk supply simply doesn’t come in on day 4-5, despite initial feeding and pumping, and the appearance of colostrum. These Mommies put so much pressure on themselves, from outside sources.. That breast feeding is the only healthy way.. But, guess what happens when, after trying, trying, LC consults, and meds, these same Moms still don’t have milk?? They crash.. Feel like failures, because society tells them that nursing is the only way. I agree, keep hospitals pro nursing, but, also send parents home with some formula.. For those stressful first few days. And educate parents that their babies will be just fine on a formula diet.
At 9 weeks postpartum, I went back to my RN job. My milk supply dropped dramatically as the pump couldn’t mimic my baby and provide the same “let down” response. So, I kept at it, but my sweet boy got 1-2 formula bottles a day, and I nursed when I was with him. Please be realistic and considerate to all Moms.

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Mrs. BWF January 1, 2013 at 12:23 pm

Sara, I apologize this post gave that message. However, if you think I have a blanant lack of empathy for mothers who can not nurse, then you are judging off one blog post. I suggest you read through the entire blog and FB page to get a better idea. You couldn’t be mroe wrong. I didn’t nurse my first two children and always give support to our bottle feeding mamas. Take care. January

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