Motherhood comes with more than its share of change and responsibility. Community support during these changes is crucial for new moms, especially as they establish and build a breastfeeding relationship with their new baby. The World Health Organiziation (WHO) and the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recently released a report about breastfeeding rates around the world. While no country completely fulfilled the standards by these groups (breastfeeding within the first hour of an infant’s life, exclusively breastfeeding until 6 months, and breastfeeding with complementary foods until 2), the United States had exceptionally poor scores on the groups’ final “report card”, with less than 25 percent of American moms exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months and only 18 percent of American hospitals adhering to recommended breastfeeding guidelines. The problem isn’t limited to America, either: only 23 nations reported higher than 60% of moms exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months of age.
These scores paint a sad picture of the reality for many breastfeeding moms: They aren’t getting the support they need. Mothers may experience a failure of their birthing team to facilitate nursing in the first hour. UNICEF and WHO have worked to promote best practices in hospitals through their Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, a project to establish guidelines and criteria for hospitals to adhere to, like promoting breastfeeding for moms, providing evidence-based care and information to nursing moms, and treating all infants as breastfed infants and all moms as nursing moms. You can find baby friendly facilities using the website created by UNICEF and WHO.
An early and sudden return to work can also disrupt the establishment of milk supply and a nursing relationship. Even in the best circumstances when a new mom has all of the initial support she needs, breastfeeding can be difficult if you’ve never seen it done before or don’t have any guidance. Knowing what’s normal, when to expect your milk to come in, and that cluster feeding doesn’t mean baby isn’t getting enough food, can empower a new mom to trust her body. Allowing our body’s instincts and baby’s instincts to work together in the early days is important, but having the support to do so is priceless. Hiring a postpartum doula versed in lactation support and education, and accessing an IBCLC are fantastic first steps for new moms. Find an IBCLC in your area.
For more information about breastfeeding rates around the country and throughout the USA, check out the briefing of the report from USAToday: