Our brains learn best by watching and with mentoring yet many American mothers have never actually seen a woman breastfeed, let alone learn from her. In cultures where everyone breastfeeds, women have an easier time learning.
Our culture boasts of family values, yet there is little cultural support, let alone celebration, for the breastfed baby. Instead, bottles and pacifiers go hand-in hand with babies. They are visible everywhere: in babies’ mouths, on t-shirts, gift bags, party decorations, baby gifts, advertisements, health insurance brochures and doctor’s offices. The result is that at 6 months, only 13% of our babies are exclusively breastfed.
Most hospitals still give new moms a “just-in-case” promotional bag with bottles of formula and pacifiers. Our citizens are sold to by many corporations interested in selling their product at nearly any cost and we are used to doing their marketing for them by accepting branded gifts and products.
The US is a country that has not adopted the The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (the Code). The Code helps to protect vulnerable parents and innocent babies from predatory marketing. Predatory marketing in this case, is marketing a product (formula and teats/nipples) to a vulnerable market (new parents) using untrue statements. Claims that may seem plausible to someone who is in distress, such as a new mother who is tired and worried about her baby being hungry. Predatory marketing is the opposite of informed consent.
How do you get around this?
Culture. When women are with other women who breastfeed, they keep breastfeeding.
Fortunately, there are little sub-cultures of breastfeeding families everywhere for you to discover. Don’t follow the example of the pioneer woman living alone on the prairie. There is a new wonderful world awaiting when you join or create a breastfeeding community.
Café Mama is a just such a community in New Paltz, NY.
While you are pregnant and when you are out with your baby, scope out breastfeeding-friendly resources in your community. Places like playgrounds, libraries, public spaces, play spaces, cafés and stores are hubs where breastfeeding women gather.
Look for breastfeeding support groups at hospitals, WIC offices, baby stores, community centers, on Meetup.com, in OB/GYN’s, midwives’ and lactation consultants’ offices.
Join La Leche League or another breastfeeding support group and attend meetings starting in your first or second trimester.
Become an advocate for breastfeeding in your life and community. Host a Big Latch On or participate in a Live Love Latch event during World Breastfeeding Week to raise awareness in your community.
If you can’t find a breastfeeding support group, start one. Join Meetup.com, or put up a flyer at your local doctor’s office, church, library children’s room or preschool.