1.19.2009

Pumped Up: The Business of Breastfeeding

If you have a moment, try to read Baby Food, a recent New Yorker article outlining the history of nursing but also critiquing the culture of pumping in the US.

While I was pregnant, I knew that I would breastfeed my baby. For how long, I was unsure. Believe me, I spoke with several women who had such different experiences. I kept hearing about how painful or challenging it could be. Frankly I was a little nervous because no one made it sound rewarding or easy. Even my mom wasn't encouraging me to nurse. As of today, I've been nursing for almost seven months, longer than I had expected.

Even though nowadays most hospitals encourage breastfeeding immediately, it seems the rest of our world in the US doesn't. The message about nursing has always been confusing. Did you know for many decades in the US, breastfeeding was considered an act only for the poor? And also before the 1993 Family Leave Act, women had to return to work almost immediately after giving birth if they wanted to keep their job. But even today, women are still only granted 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave. The message is still mixed right? The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends that we breastfeed for one year but employers expect us to come back after three months.

It's upsetting because women in places like Canada or France get a year off to properly care for their newborns. While American women have to rush back to work and be forced to pump in their office secretly with their Medela pump in one hand and a picture of their baby in the other. Many women have a hard time pumping at work and often their milk supply decreases. Why hasn't there been more progress in the work world? I hope that the continuous advocacy work of La Leche League will result in more rights and freedom for the nursing mom.

Btw, check out finalists of an international breastfeeding icon here.

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