World Breastfeeding Week may be winding down, but fear not lactivists. National Breastfeeding Awareness month presses on for the entire month of August amid Latch-On initiatives and tales of failed breastfeeding attempts. The ladies of TheBump.com are doing their part to boost those breastfeeding numbers by going after yet another component of the national breastfeeding conversation: stigma for public breastfeeding. You don’t need the first annual Great Nurse-In to tip you off on how some mothers often have to school others on their breastfeeding rights. That’s why the website is launching Public Display of Breastfeeding Day (PBD) on August 15th in the hopes of coaxing even bashful mommies to grab a nursing tent and head to a park bench. Shannon Guyton, TheBump.com site director, shares with us how she and her colleagues are looking to stomp out public breastfeeding scrutiny along with thoughts on lactivism, unhelpful lactation experts, and those irksome “formula bans.”
Do you think “formula bans,” much like what Bloomberg has suggested for hospitals and initatives in Massachusetts, encourage breastfeeding? If so, why?
I believe the intention of the ban is to encourage breastfeeding by making formula less available. The first days of breastfeeding can be tough and the idea is that moms will be more motivated to commit to it and keep trying to stimulate their milk production with their newborn if formula isn’t offered so easily. But the feedback we’ve gotten from even our breastfeeding readers is that they don’t want options taken away from new moms. It makes them feel bullied into breastfeeding and judged if they don’t. Mothers would have access to formula. They would need to have a nurse sign it out to them. But having to go through a formal process to get it can be emotionally harmful for new moms that either aren’t able or decide not to breastfeed. And it doesn’t have to be all one or the other. I used formula in small amounts in conjunction with breastfeeding at the beginning with my daughter until my milk was in full swing.
How would you respond to assertions that the government should not be meddling in how women want to feed their babies?
At the end of the day, the decision on whether to breast or bottle feed belongs to the parents. There are undeniable benefits to breastfeeding for both mother and baby, but women who cannot or choose not to breastfeed should have the option.
Breastfeeding has reportedly seen a noteworthy uptick in recent years. What would you attribute that rise to?
I think a lot of it has to do with greater activism and information, or lactivism, as it’s known, in recent years. More moms are stepping out in public to breastfeed, or posting pictures on Facebook and other social networks. It’s so important for women to know that they are not alone and that they aren’t stigmatized. There’s also just so much more information and proven research on how healthy it is for women to breastfeed, both for themselves and for the baby.
Breastfeeding has been linked to longer maternity leave in terms of success rates. Because formula samples aren’t the sole problem when ensuring that more mothers are breastfeeding, what other work do you think still needs to be done?
There are a whole host of things that need to be done to encourage mothers to breastfeed. Longer maternity leave is definitely one, since pumping is not always easy to do at work and milk production can drop if baby isn’t actually latched on. Another issue is that many women feel uncomfortable breastfeeding in public. If we can reduce the stigma associated with it, more women will breastfeed.
Our readers often times share with us how lactation experts and coaches can be really unsupportive when they are struggling with breastfeeding. Do you feel any changes are needed in that arena?
This is definitely a two-way issue. There are some lactation experts and coaches who aren’t supportive if a woman is struggling, and that’s obviously something that needs to be improved on. There are also lactation experts and coaches who are lovely, supportive and help a woman through. If a woman is having issues with her expert or consultant, she needs to find someone else who she feels more comfortable with. At the end of the day, the choice to breastfeed or bottle-feed doesn’t decide how good of a mom you are.
The PSAs to encourage breastfeeding obviously can tread on sensitive territory given that not all women can breastfeed. Half of our readers told us that this Bloomberg-sanctioned Latch-On ad in NYC made them feel ”judged.” What’s your response?
With any breastfeeding campaign, the idea isn’t to judge women who aren’t breastfeeding, it’s to educate them about the positives of it. Breastfeeding has undeniable health benefits, but women who do not breastfeed shouldn’t feel judged. On the other side, though, many women who do breastfeed feel ashamed to do so in public, and that’s not good either. The goal is support for moms, no matter what choices they make.
Tell us what TheBump.com is hoping to accomplish with the PDB pledge on August 15th? Why should even bashful breastfeeders participate?
TheBump.com is hoping to erase some of the stigma surrounding breastfeeding in general and in public. We want women to feel comfortable and empowered to breastfeed in public, so we created a Public Display of Breastfeeding Day on August 15th — thousands of moms have promised to breastfeed and show their support! We polled our moms on TheBump.com and found that more than 1 in 10 feel that breastfeeding should be done in private, and 14% admitted public breastfeeding makes them uncomfortable. Just that informal poll proves we need to help change the attitudes about breastfeeding. Even the bashful breastfeeders should participate in PDB day so they too can join the united effort across the country to support breastfeeding.
Do cover-ups and nursing tents count?
What has the response been from your readership so far?
Reader support has been overwhelming. Already, over 1,000 moms have pledged to breastfeed in public on August 15. Moms are posting photos, sending us videos, posting to Facebook and tweeting at us (@thebump) with the hashtag #PBD to show their support.
Watch TheBump.com’s breastfeeding PSA below: