The Center for Disease Control has recently released a report stating that 49% of all babies are breastfed at six months (this is based on data from 2010.) That’s a huge increase from 2000 when it was only 35%. And Lord knows back in my mom’s day, most baby’s were formula-fed, and it was encouraged. So why the big shift?
Well to start, there’s been a lot of press in recent years about the benefits of breastfeeding. From decreasing chances of allergies to stronger immune systems to perhaps even decreasing chances of autism; the benefits are endless. There’s also been a great increase in support from doctors and hospitals that previously didn’t exist. Many hospitals are now becoming “baby-friendly” hospitals where they allow – and encourage – immediate skin-to-skin contact after birth, rooming in after birth (bye bye nursery!) and offer free lactation consultants to help guide new moms in the often challenging art of breastfeeding.
And, as we all know, the more one sees other people doing it, the more they want to do it. Call it the herd mentality or what you will, but it’s true. Nowadays it’s not so uncommon to be out in a public place and see a mother nursing her child, or for new moms to join breastfeeding support groups which are readily available in many major cities.
Employers as well are required (see: Section 4207 amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938) to include the guarantee of “a reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.” Not to mention breast pumps are now covered by health insurance thanks to provisions in the Affordable Care Act. Breastfeeding has become a real part of the health care continuum.
At the end of the day the decision to breastfeed, formula-feed or do a combination of both is a personal one for every mother to make on her own, with no right or wrong choice. But it is awesome that now the choice is more of a choice, and either way you choose to go, there is ample support for it.
For more breastfeeding resources, check out the your local chapter of La Leche League.