Breastfeeding is the first and only source of nutrition for newly born babies. For up to six months, it is recommended to feed babies only on mother’s milk and avoid other food sources (1). Breastfeeding is more than just providing nutrition to the baby though; it is also an emotional and bonding experience between mother and child (2). However, we shouldn’t be too quick at judging mothers who opt not to breastfeed. There are many challenges associated with breastfeeding which women face and many a time they have to resort to other methods.
The social aspect of breastfeeding is in itself also a challenge. On one hand, you will meet the overzealous breastfeeding supporters who would leave no stone unturned in lecturing you if they notice you feeding your baby anything other than the mother’s milk. And on the other hand, the over-sensitive kind who will take offense if they see you nursing in public. It’s 2021 and we like to think people have better awareness about breastfeeding but it isn’t always the case. Let’s look at some of the common breastfeeding barriers parents still face in current times:
1. Myths About Breastfeeding
One of the most significant barriers with regards to breastfeeding is the myths surrounding it. One myth, in particular, steals the show — that breastfeeding should come naturally and easily for both mother and child. This is far from the truth. Although a very natural process, breastfeeding is not all that easy. Especially in the early days, it’s common for new mothers to struggle with breastfeeding. Sometimes, the mother may face issues with insufficient glandular tissues, mastitis, or breast enlargement. At other times, the baby may have problems with latching, a tongue-tie, or even cleft lips. Breastfeeding takes time and patience (3).
2. Lack Of Lactation Facilities
It’s quite surprising and unfortunate that although breastfeeding is such an essential part of life, there are not enough resources available to support it. For example, mothers who aren’t comfortable with the idea of breastfeeding in public often have to struggle with looking for clean and safe spaces to feed their babies. At times, they have to feed the baby in toilets just because of privacy concerns.
The same is true when it comes to finding help or seeking advice in matters of breastfeeding. A lot of people find it difficult to reach out to lactation specialists simply because they’re not available or they’re scarce. Mothers often have to rely on hearsay and traditional advice to solve their issues. Another example of scarce resources is that a lot of health insurance doesn’t really cover breastfeeding support.
3. Unrealistic Expectations
People often expect mothers to play by the book when it comes to nursing and postpartum. Usually, it is assumed that the worst is over with childbirth, and soon after, the mother is expected to bounce back and be on her toes. Not many people realize that the recovery period for a mother to heal is at least six to eight weeks on average. And that’s just the physical side of it — some mothers go through postpartum depression and trauma, all of which may take a while to heal.
Even babies are subjected to unrealistic expectations. They’re often expected to feed on time, sleep without a fuss at night, and overcome all the milestones that other kids usually complete with ease. When it comes to breastfeeding too, a lot of people have unrealistic expectations. Each baby is different, and their feeding habits are different too. Some babies feed more than others, while some may not be okay with breast milk at all. It’s important to normalize that breastfeeding is different for everyone, and it’s okay as long as the mother and child are both healthy.
4. Freaking Out On Seeing A Mother Feeding Her Child
A mother breastfeeding her child in public often draws more scrutiny and judgment than, let’s say, a bunch of people getting into a fistfight or even just a man peeing on the road! Sadly, breasts are often associated with everything erotic in nature — even if it involves a little baby feeding on it. So, the minute a mother starts feeding her child, people suddenly get uncomfortable. Although most countries have legalized breastfeeding in public (it’s sad that there’s even a law for this, but that’s a topic for another day), nursing mothers are still subjected to shame. It’s high time we normalize breastfeeding and accept it for what it is, which is a mother feeding her child!
5. Shaming You For Not Breastfeeding
We’ve been told time and again that “breast is best”, and this is true. Breast milk is essential for survival as it protects your baby from infections and disease, and not to mention that it provides all the necessary nutrition that your baby needs. And yes, top health organizations such as the World Health Organization clearly state that you should try to feed your baby breastmilk at least for the first six months of their lives (1). But, there are cases when parents can’t help it, so they have to stick to baby formula. A mother should not risk her health and well-being trying to breastfeed her baby when her body is not in the best of conditions. The mother’s health is equally important as that of the baby. In the situation where a mother is unable to breastfeed her child, formulas are the next best choice and people should stop being judgemental about it. Just like breast milk, baby formulas would also provide your child with the necessary nutrients. So maybe it’s time we stop trashing mothers who can’t breastfeed their babies! Yes, we’re talking about breastfeeding barriers, but this point is valid here because mothers who feed their babies formula are still feeding them.
Breastfeeding is normal. It’s also a beautiful thing. Don’t let people’s opinions get in the way of you feeding your child the way you know is best. Unfortunately, there are many obstacles we have to overcome to thoroughly enjoy the normalization of breastfeeding, but hopefully, we’ll get there soon! What are some of the barriers to breastfeeding that you faced? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!
- Breastfeeding Difficulties and Risk for Early Breastfeeding Cessation