Guilt and Breastfeeding

Guilt and breastfeeding are two topics that spark a lot of emotion. Naturally, this headline caught my attention: “Breastfeeding Guidance Makes Mothers Feel Guilty: Research”. (The Telegraph, March 2012)

In the article, I didn’t see any specific studies cited or authors named. This referred to interviews with 36 women in one area in one country at one time. As research goes, that’s a vague and small review. Nonetheless, I empathize with what the women expressed.

They said they “weren’t given enough support and were told to try harder”. The ‘researchers’ (unnamed) were quoted as saying “Women were left without enough support to continue at difficult times”. So really, the issue is lack of breastfeeding guidance.

Especially in the first months, it’s a big learning curve and it takes time to find a balance. Guilt implies wrongdoing and fault. The more appropriate words would be confused, uninformed, alone. Learning to nurse is part of that normal adapting. If it’s not going well, it’s doesn’t mean it’s your fault or blame. It means you need consistent, calm guidance. It doesn’t sound like that was provided to the 36 women who were interviewed. I wish it were easily available to all families. Until then, you do well to seek it out.

Certified Baby Friendly facilities have focused on ten specific steps to promote and protect breastfeeding from the very beginning. *  That’s a supportive environment.

• Prenatal classes explain what’s normal, what’s necessary, when and where to get help. Bring your partner or friend so they’re informed and can be more helpful.

Home visits with an IBCLC are effective. Ask all your questions; call again, even months later, when you have questions. We want to know what your goals are and how to make this work in your life.

Prenatal breastfeeding classes and home visits are covered under the Affordable Care Act. That’s a policy that supports families. Skip the guilt and blame. Instead, let’s improve how and when families get the support they deserve.

Here’s some more insight into help with breastfeeding problems.
Effective Breastfeeding Support  a previous blog I wrote.
Overcoming Breastfeeding Challenges: A Qualitative Inquiry. Vol. 3, Issue 4 pgs. 155-160 Cooper C., Wilson D.R, Plunk K, Severson M
Dr. Jack Newman has a discussion about guilt and breastfeeding.

* As of September 2013, in the United States there are 168 hospitals and birthing centers in 41 states and the District of Columbia. Speak up for this. More Baby Friendly facilities means better breastfeeding support.