I've discovered that the topic is highly political, so broach it with caution! As it happens, many people -- mothers, hospital staff, random people -- can suddenly become defensive, guilt-ridden, smug, or downright angry at the mere mention of breastfeeding. Worse still, these unprovoked blowups are not limited to one camp; the "formula's fine" crew and the "lactivists" can be equally volatile.
Paradoxically, though, breastfeeding NEEDS to be talked about! The fact is, there is a minority of women who are milky goddesses, able to easily feed their baby with no problems or help. There is also a minority of women who simply cannot (or should not*) make milk, regardless of how much help they get. The rest of us, and I'm guessing we're the vast majority, fall in the middle -- we're physically able to make milk, but we need help in figuring out this new and seemingly strange process. (It's not easy!)
Current (American) statistics indicate that the majority of mothers leave the hospital having initiated breastfeeding, but by 6 months, not even 14% are still exclusively breastfeeding. Such a dramatic decline is surely due to many factors, but it cannot be addressed, let alone solved, without first resolving the vitriol-fraught nature of the breastfeeding dialogue. Both sides need to let go of their baggage and resolve the following:
- to agree that, thanks to modern scientific advances, formula is perfectly acceptable food for babies;
- to acknowledge the numerous scientific findings proving the quantifiable nutritional superiority of breast milk;
- to ensure that breastfeeding information and assistance exists for all new mothers;
- to ensure that said assistance is ample, accessible, and that it is adequately promoted and supported by the medical and health communities;
- to condemn public attitudes of breastfeeding being "gross" or obscene;
- to support mothers, especially those experiencing difficulty with breastfeeding, in whatever solution is appropriate for their individual situation. This includes formula use.
- to reinforce that while breastmilk is superior to formula, a breastfeeding mom is NOT superior to a formula-feeding mom!
In sum, we must say "enough!" to the current "damned if you do, damned if you don't" paradox of breastfeeding; the job of raising a child is hard enough as it is.
And thus concludes Breastfeeding Politics 101! ;-) Now that you have a better idea of the current context, my personal/specific observations to come Part 2 may have more resonance. Until then!
(* due to taking medication, for example)