U.S. Should Not Discourage Breastfeeding

Just 13 percent of moms are able to breastfeed their child six months after birth. Photo Credit: Pixabay

Mary Kuhlman

Public News Service

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Some parents are still reeling from word of the United States’ opposition to a global resolution supporting breastfeeding. According to a New York Times article, the U.S. wanted to water down a World Health Assembly resolution promoting and protecting breastfeeding around the world.

Alex Turpin with the Le Leche League of Louisville said she is worried about threats to the scarce breastfeeding resources that are available. She said a lot of parents are not able to get the support they need.

“So then they rely on other government-funded resources such as WIC, where if you’re on Medicaid, you could go to the hospital you delivered at and see the lactation consultant there,” Turpin said. “And even with those resources, still a lot of parents don’t meet their own breastfeeding goals.”

Turpin said while it’s understandable that not everyone chooses or is able to breastfeed, she contends the U.S. should not be speaking out against a biologically important source of nutrition for babies. A spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services denied the U.S. is anti-breastfeeding, and argued the issue was about protecting “women’s abilities to make the best choices for the nutrition of their babies.”

Co-founder of Moms Rising Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner said only 13 percent of moms are able to breastfeed at six months out, sometimes because of barriers in the workplace. She said the United States is behind other industrialized nations when it comes to supports for working mothers.

“One hundred seventy-seven other countries do have a paid family medical leave program,” Rowe-Finkbeiner said. “And studies show that when you have paid family medical leave programs, there is more time to establish breastfeeding to bond and to establish a healthy start in life.”

Rowe-Finkbeiner noted that infant formula is a $70 billion industry, and said she believes the Trump Administration is putting corporate interests above public health.

“That’s not to say that infant formula isn’t needed,” she said. “Women need to be able to choose whether they can breastfeed or need formula or need both. We want people to have an option; we don’t want people to be railroaded.”

She added that breastfeeding also has economic benefits. A Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard School of Medicine study found the U.S. could save nearly $13 billion a year in pediatric health costs and premature deaths if mothers could meet current medical recommendations for breastfeeding.