Breastfeeding parents in the U.S. all probably jumped for joy at the fact that it’s legal to breastfeed in public! For too long they have been asked to stop feeding their child just because others were ‘offended.’ (“Please don’t stare at me feeding my kid, thanks!”) Now the law is in full support of these parents, and that’s a huge victory. But that’s just a step in the road to normalizing breastfeeding as mothers are still being asked to breastfeed out of public eye.
We still need everyone, breastfeeding or not, to lend their vocal and public support.these three following things could happen when breastfeeding becomes more normalized in the public:
Individuals that clearly express support of public breastfeeding could prevent any future issues. No parent wants to hear “You can’t do that here,” phrase in the middle of feeding their child. In the past, parents breastfeeding at grocery stores and public beaches have been asked to stop or leave. In some case the police called on them! That is ridiculous and totally preventable. Having public and private locations vocally express their support of breastfeeding could prevent other people from wrongfully confronting these parents in the future.
Vocal affirmation that these parents are welcome to breastfeed wherever and whenever they need could allow them to feel motivated and empowered in their journey. When more parents are motivated instead of shamed there is a greater chance of breastfeeding being normalized. This may also positively affect the rates here in the U.S.
There is a commonality between breastfeeding parents and their supporters that do not personally breastfeed – the wellbeing of the child. Breastfeeding is about the baby’s nutrition and bonding, not the parent’s breast being out of their shirt. Whether a baby is breast or bottle-fed, we can all agree and support baby needs to eat. We should work together to strengthen the next generation of children, not judge the current generation of parents for breastfeeding!
Normalizing breastfeeding is about much more than changing laws or store rules (though it is a big part of it). It’s also about going out to the mall, feeding your child and still being able to confidently have conversations with other adults without any awkwardness or tension hanging in the air. We’ve come so far, but we still have a little further to go!
Innovations in the Lactation World!
It’s Breastfeeding Awareness Month! To celebrate, we decided to hop in our time machine. We’re going back to what breastfeeding was like for our grandparents’ generation. Our societal norms definitely have changed – from work, to technology, to popular culture media, breastfeeding has gotten a few makeovers. Without the following innovations in the lactation world, we might still be at only a 25% rate of breastfeeding initiation with new mothers (lowest U.S. rate ever) and using breast pumps that look like they’d be more efficient as bicycle horns. Luckily, we are in the age of smart phones and smarter people!
Women, the 70s, and the workforce? Oh my! Women have had a bumpy ride earning a spot in the workplace in the 60s and 70s. Then add parenting, breastfeeding, and pumping onto that! There was a decline in breastfeeding rates before and during the 70s. This was a result of formula culture and working full time, mixed with the lack of cultural support to maintain breastfeeding. Women were fighting for equal social and economic rights, but the lactation world was a bit slower to catch up with the needs of the new working mom.
Thankfully, there have been recent strides with breastfeeding women in the United States. The rate of working women that breastfed rose from 29.2% in 1975 to 58.8% in 1994. That is over a quarter (almost a third) increase in about 20 years! One awesome innovation made in the American workplace to accommodate breastfeeding women was the introduction of pumping/lactation rooms. Lactation rooms are designed to give mothers a private, comfortable and safe place to pump and store their milk, as well as a place to clean and organize their pumping accessories. Imagine what it would have been like if older generations had utilized this concept?
The mothers of our family worked hard, but probably didn’t have the rights to guarantee a safe place to pump during their work days. Honestly, workplace culture possibly wouldn’t have changed as quickly without the legislation passed to support lactation rooms. An important change to the breastfeeding and legal world was legislation passed under the Affordable Care Act in 2010 that ensures women more security when it comes to their breastfeeding at work. It became federal law that employers must provide a place for employees to express their milk, besides a bathroom, until the baby of the employee is one-years-old.
Another breakthrough: it is officially legal to breastfeed in public in all 50 states in the U.S. (yay!!). But, just because it’s now legal doesn’t mean that our grandmothers weren’t feeding their babies in public regardless. An article published by The New York Times in 1973 about breastfeeding in public shares the same sentiments many breastfeeding women of today have. To summarize, a woman was at a restaurant for a dinner party and her baby was hungry, so she decided to breastfeed at the party. She expresses that it was natural for her to do so. Even though some people gave her rude looks, she didn’t mind as long as her child was fed. Breastfeeding in public has become more normalized in recent years, and we have our grandmothers to thank for that!
The transformation of the breast pump can easily go unnoticed, but we should thank the innovators of this machine until the cows come home! Breast pumps are by no means a new thing, but modern advancements have made it a better pumping experience from moms of the past had. The pumps that were for mothers to use at home look like a mix between a modern hand pump and a bicycle horn. The hospital grade pump of the time definitely wasn’t created to leave the hospitals, but it was the start of a business designed to make pumping safer and more efficient. They both apparently hurt a lot! Thank the stars that mothers now don’t have to go through using those bulky things.
Technological advances didn’t solely affect pumps, of course. Technology has changed our everyday lives. It’s revolutionized how to keep track of Our grandparents have to log their breastfeeding the old fashion way: grab a notebook, get your pencils sharpened, and keep an eye on the clock! A notebook? Pencils? How do you even read analog?! Well, it’s probably not that outdated to jot things down with a pencil. With innovations in personal technology our society has begun to shift and shape around these technologies. All you need to keep track of pumping is that smartphone in your pocket! There are so many apps centered around timing and recording your breastfeeding and pumping into a digital log. Already bought that amazing journal just for logging? Well you can still play Netflix and in-app games!
Let’s hop back into our time machine and go back to 2018!
Things have definitely changed for the better, but this is only the beginning. Breastfeeding and pumping is becoming normalized in our culture. More and more parents are reaping the benefits of breastmilk for their child. Even so, there is still a long way to go!
You did it – you just became a parent! Not only that, but you’ve decided to breastfeed your little one. You’ve probably already figured out breastfeeding takes some work and personal adjustments. Throughout all of the joyful chaos that comes with parenthood, it is important to learn how to balance breastfeeding, parenting, and your personal life. (What’s a personal life, right?) Remembering who YOU are is so important, but how to balance that during this chapter of your life? How do you balance your hobbies, goals, and confidence through parenthood? Looking back can help you move forward!
Do you enjoy cooking? Drawing? Singing? Exercising at the gym? It might be hard to do everything you enjoyed doing right out the gate, but with a few adjustments you could begin to treat yourself to variations of those hobbies again. For example, if you enjoyed cooking but don’t have time to cook because of your new breastfeeding schedule, there are plenty of different alternatives like cooking games and watching competitive cooking shows.
Once you become more comfortable with your feeding schedule it’ll become easier to get back in the kitchen and start cooking that signature meal your family loves! That goes for any of your hobbies: Draw on a notebook or tablet during your free time until you can get back to your canvas. Try less intense, home-workouts until you can make it to the gym. Sing in the shower until you can get back onstage (heck, have someone watch the baby so you can have a full concert and spa in the shower!). You deserve your interests. You deserve the joy you get from fulfilling them. Don’t forget that! And if you feel like your old hobbies aren’t for you anymore, sites like Pinterest are a great way to start finding other things to enjoy!
Having a healthy and happy baby is one but think more of a past individual goal. Did you want to go back to school? Did you want that promotion at your job? Are you getting overwhelmed thinking about your past goals and trying to fit them into your future? Don’t be! You are human, and humans are known to change with time and experience – what you planned for yourself before you were pregnant may not be close to what you have planned for your family’s future, and that’s okay.
Look more into what those goals meant to you, whether they were fully achieved or not, and try to get to know who you were a little more. It might seem like meeting a whole new person! For example, if you wanted to go back to school to get a degree, then that could mean that you have a hardworking, diligent personality trait, which will come in very handy when creating and following a dedicated breastfeeding/pumping plan. If you wanted that promotion but life had other plans for now, don’t forget that you are still that same persevering person and maybe even more so since you have another tiny person to care for!
Breastfeeding parents can seem like the most confident people in the world to outsiders looking in, and this can be daunting to new breastfeeding parents. But fear not! Many breastfeeding parents will have their confidence shaken with the unfamiliar territory of breastfeeding and any setbacks that might come along with it – some may be better at hiding it! If you’re experiencing a lack of confidence due to problems breastfeeding, lactation consultants, like the ones at our very own Metropolitan Breastfeeding, are available to help encourage and guide you. However, if you’re experiencing lack of personal confidence and self-esteem you may feel that it’s a little harder to regain that confidence.
You’re different; you’ve changed. Looking back at your past confidence can help find a new confidence, though. You were strong, smart, witty and funny as ever, opinionated, compassionate, loved to dance like no one was looking, never held grudges or regret. You still are those things. Through balancing the world on your shoulders, you may have forgotten that you still are you. A different, stronger, funnier, stronger, kinder, more compassionate, and all-around better you.
If your self-esteem does not improve or gets worse, please reach out for professional help and remember you are not alone.
Time to reclaim your new self and personal life! No matter what, always know that you’re going to do great!