Survey finds moms still face stigma and difficulties breastfeeding

McClatchy-Tribune

Experts agree that breastfeeding is one of the best things that a mother can do for her child, but it’s not always as easy as it would seem. Many new moms face difficulties breastfeeding, and a new survey by the websites TheBump.com and Breastfeeding.com show misinformation and ignorant attitudes still exist.

Polling more than 1,600 women on TheKnot.com, TheNest.com and TheBump.com, the survey found that 44 percent of women feel uncomfortable seeing a mom breastfeed in public. In fact, 10 percent of women said “Eww, in private please!” about public breastfeeding. And 47 percent of pregnant women admitted that seeing women breastfeed in public makes them uncomfortable. Elena Mauer, site editor for TheBump.com said perhaps that’s why 56 percent of pregnant woman say they plan on only breastfeeding in private.

“I think part of it is, we know it’s the best thing, but because a lot of people aren’t forward about it, it is still stigmatized. We are trying to encourage moms to feel comfortable to do it anywhere. There’s nothing to be embarrassed about because it’s completely legal and they are feeding their baby the best way possible,” Mauer said.

Mauer said she if mothers were more outspoken about the benefits of breastfeeding, it might change attitudes.

“I think it’s really the moms themselves that need to not be shy. We can’t preach enough about all the good things that breastfeeding does for your baby.”

She said although research from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has shown that breastfed children have a lower risk of developing cancer, obesity and type 2 diabetes, and breastfeeding moms have a lower risk of developing breast cancer and type 2 diabetes, 10 percent of women surveyed still feel it doesn’t make a big difference for mom or baby. Mauer said some studies even show that fewer breastfeeding moms experience less anxiety. Not to mention that it helps burn 500 calories a day.

Expectant moms might expect that it is simple and not expect to have issues getting a baby to latch on, or to experience pain. In the survey, 25 percent of women said they tried but simply weren’t able to breastfeed. And Mauer said that a new report from the CDC proves less than 4 percent of hospitals provide the support needed for women to succeed at breastfeeding.

Mauer has one child and said that while there weren’t any physical difficulties for her, she did at times feel like it was too much to be the sole source of food and have to breastfeed her newborn every two hours, 24 hours a day.

“It is so overwhelming after the baby is born, and you are expected to do this thing you’ve never done before. It can be very difficult. You might assume you’ll be able to do it, but really, you probably will need help,” Mauer said. “Most moms haven’t seen a baby latch on, so they won’t know the proper positioning, and if they don’t talk to a lactation consultant, they might not have anyone else to talk to. Many people won’t talk to friends, because it’s a little embarrassing.”

Those women seeking information or support should go to Breastfeeding.com and thebump.com/breastfeeding, or contact the Le Leche League at www.llli.org.