It's All About Choice
Formula companies have billion dollar ad budgets, breastfeeding advocates don't! But you CAN help make this a breastfeeding society. Become a breastfeeding Zealot (if you aren't one already.) Educate the people around you, promote breastfeeding, and support nursing mothers. Together we CAN make a difference! One of the National Health Objectives for the year 2000 is to have 75% of mothers breastfeeding at hospital discharge and 35% breastfeeding at six months. We can do this and more if we give mothers the information and support they need to persevere. No mother should be forced to quit because of sore nipples, engorgement, or breast infections. No mother should be harassed because her nine (or twenty-nine or thirty-nine) month-old is "still nursing."
It's all about choice. Freedom of choice means not having your decision sabotaged by well meant but uneducated advice. It means being informed about the risks and benefits of all available options. It means making an educated decision and having the information and support necessary to carry it out. And with the freedom to choose comes the obligation to choose wisely.
It is not the mothers who consciously decide to use formula that feel guilty or are unhappy about it. They're not the ones who tell every breastfeeding mom they see how they wanted to breastfeed, but they "just didn't have enough milk" or "just couldn't do it." The mothers who have misgivings or feel guilty are the ones who were told why they should breastfeed, but not how. It's the ones who were given incorrect information. It's the ones who tried to breastfeed, but didn't have the support they needed to keep going. First these mothers feel guilty, then they may get angry. They were denied their right to make an informed decision and have that decision respected.
We should strive to educate every person in this country about breastfeeding so that no woman will have to say "If only I had known; if only someone had told me that." Supporting mothers is good, but it is not enough. Educating new parents is good, bit it is not enough. We need to educate the doctors, nurses, dietitians, teachers, ministers, school principals, and mothers-in-law. We need to reach toy manufacturers and teach them that there are other ways of feeding baby-dolls than with bottles. We need to reach out to teenage, low income, and single mothers. Help them bond with their babies through breastfeeding. Don't offer them "free" formula. We must teach our children to be smart consumers and show them that when babies are fed and comforted at the breast they are healthier and happier. Then when our children grow up, they will have the information they need to be able to make wise, informed, healthy choices.
It is our responsibility to make sure that ALL health professionals have accurate, up-to-date information about the risks of artificial feeding and not only the benefits of breastfeeding but also how to make breastfeeding work. We must do our part as consumers to force formula companies to follow appropriate marketing practices. And we must each do our part to educate the public around us about breastfeeding.
©1994 Hannah J.G. Smith
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