- Sep 21, 2023
45% of women in the United States believe that breastfeeding threatens a mother’s freedom and independence which affects her lifestyle.
And a further 50% of mothers said they stopped breastfeeding because of insufficient milk supply.
Those are some big numbers, and it confirms the huge decline of mother’s choosing to breastfeed their babies in the United States. A percentage of these mother’s said that with more support and education, they would have been able to breastfeed for longer. Lola&Lykke are now extending their products and services to families in the United States to guide them through the challenges that breastfeeding can bring.
The truth behind the United States’ declining breastfeeding rates
All 50 states have laws that allow women to breastfeed publicly and in any private location. In July 2019, the ‘Fairness for Breastfeeding Mothers Act 2019’ was passed meaning that specific public buildings had to provide hygienic facilities with a working desktop, plug point and a chair. The recent PUMP Act 2022 which was passed means that approximately 9 million more workers have the right to receive pumping breaks and a private space to do this. A change such as this is huge considering not that long ago, women were not protected legally and were unable to breastfeed publicly in certain states.
A recent study explored the reasons why women in the United States gave up breastfeeding within the first year. Most of the reasons why mothers opted to bottle feed their babies rather than breastfeed was due to the lack of knowledge and understanding about the health and nutritional benefits breastmilk and formula milk have. A percentage of mothers wrongly believed that formula milk had a higher nutritional value than breastmilk. It was recommended that mothers in the United States be educated through successful role models rather than written texts and resources, to help them make an informed decision about how they choose to feed their baby.
Years ago, a percentage of hospitals and birth centres in the United States reported that they gave healthy, full-term newborn supplements of formula milk and/or included samples of infant formula in gift packs for the mother; both of which would have a negative influence on supporting a baby being breastfed. Nowadays, samples are not gifted to new mothers but the number of babies who have formula milk in the first few days of life increased in the last 3 years, partly due to the pandemic.
Another barrier that mothers face, and this is relevant to mothers worldwide, is the expectations we set for ourselves and what we think breastfeeding will be like when our baby arrives. Imagine, you’re sat in a comfortable chair with all your home comforts close by and your baby is nuzzling against you and latches on with ease. You smile lovingly down at them and watch them feed whilst you embrace a truly wonderful moment... and sometimes you will get moments just like this. And other times... let’s just say it may be less chilled and more challenging with not enough hands! Mothers, particularly in the United States, don’t breastfeed past 2 weeks postpartum because of the reality and challenges they faced with breastfeeding and the support was not there to help them through this.
Breaking the stigma and building confidence in mothers to breastfeed in public
A big factor that has affected the number of women breastfeeding in the United States is how they were made to feel when opting to feed in public. Many women have reported being made to feel embarrassed or they were asked to leave the premises because people didn’t like it, even though they had every right to breastfeed where they were. In some states, such as California and Minnesota, they have launched a Breastfeeding Awareness Education Campaign to combat issues like these.
“Especially when it came to nursing in public, it almost always ended in disaster. My heart rate would increase, my mind began to tell me all types of lies and he would become frantic. My great challenges when it came to nursing went far beyond latching issues. Even an experienced lactation consultant cannot fully diagnose an issue when it has to do with your internal fears and deep insecurities.” – Kelli, read her full story here.
Leilani Rogers, a photographer from Texas, began a beautiful project soon after starting her photography business in 2009. She documented and photographed women breastfeeding in public to normalise a taboo subject, and to give women the confidence to breastfeed their babies (covered or not!). Projects such as this and the Public Breastfeeding Awareness Project were just the beginning in breaking the stigma.
Dads need breastfeeding support too
A study showed that poor family and social support was discouraging mothers to breastfeed. The experiment involved educating fathers about the benefits of breastmilk in comparison to formula, and explained what their role looks like when a baby is breastfed. The results of this study led to an increase in mothers breastfeeding because they felt supported and had someone to encourage them at times when feeding was more difficult. Fathers felt included and understood how their role could be just as important even though they weren’t feeding the baby themselves.
The hidden reality for breastfeeding mothers accessing support in the United States compared to Finland
Finland is renowned for its maternity care and breastfeeding support for new and expecting mothers. The Finnish system practices a holistic approach to maternal care with an emphasis on the mother’s mental wellbeing. Through many studies and practices, it is known that treating conditions such as postnatal depression early on can reduce a mother’s likelihood of stopping breastfeeding. In the United States, mothers have stated that they would have been able to breastfeed for longer if they had had the support to do so.
Compared to the US, Finland has a “decentralised network of primary health centres that serve local communities” rather than the medical centres and clinics that they have in the US. From the first appointment at the beginning of a mother’s pregnancy to when the baby is 6 weeks old, nurses are responsible for educating and supporting women through all aspects of their pregnancy and their presence is regular throughout. After the baby is born, it is common practice for nurses to conduct home visits for both the mother and baby. The healthcare system in Finland is universal and easy to access however in the United States, the cost of healthcare and lack of transportation creates a barrier to families receiving the care and support they need. Lola&Lykke pride themselves on giving free access for mothers to a host of maternal experts, to guide them through any queries they have as they navigate parenthood.
A huge contributing factor that a lot of mothers take into consideration when choosing how to feed their baby is the amount of maternity leave they are entitled to. In the US, mothers can take up to 12 weeks unpaid maternity leave, and fathers can also take 12 weeks unpaid paternity leave. However, most families in the US cannot afford to take the financial hit to take up the full 12 weeks paternity leave. In Finland, the new family leave policy entitles parents to 320 days parental leave which a percentage can be shared with the other partner. This is on top of 40 working days pregnancy allowance leave. The lack of maternity leave impacts mothers’ decision to breastfeed entirely and they’re less likely to initiate breastfeeding if they want to return to work within 1 year of childbirth.
Learn more: A guide for breastfeeding mums returning to work.
A couple of years ago, as we came to the end of Breastfeeding Awareness Month, we researched the comparisons between breastfeeding in Ireland and Finland. It’s interesting to read about how the impact of a country’s history, population, and culture can have such a huge affect on something as natural as breastfeeding. Whilst countries like Ireland and the United States have a long way to go in achieving the WHO’s goals, whilst other countries like Finland are carving the way and showing how it can be achieved, slowly but surely.
Lola&Lykke’s mission to bridge the gaps in maternity care for women
Lola&Lykke is an award-winning Finnish maternity brand, proudly female-founded they are helping mothers have a happier and healthier transition into motherhood. Lola&Lykke are passionate about making maternal care and breastfeeding support available to all and with recent developments, their breastfeeding essentials and maternity support bands are now able to be shipped to the United States for only $9.90!
Co-founders Laura and Kati’s idea for starting Lola&Lykke, was based on their own personal experiences with major complications during childbirth and postpartum. It was also led from their own frustrations, having given birth in a country where maternity care should be one of the best in the world, there is still a long road ahead to improve the support that is in place. We believe that mum comes first, and when she is well looked after, she is more able to look after her baby. “Our holistic support model helps mums with innovative health products, community-based support, 24/7 expert advice and a range of digital health tools. Because no mother should be left alone with her feelings and symptoms. Or be afraid to ask for help because of shame or taboos.”
We know you’re chomping at the bit to click “Shop Now” to discover our fantastic product range of breastfeeding, pregnancy and postpartum products that will completely transform your motherhood journey. So, we’ll leave you here with a glowing review from one of our lovely mums we’ve supported before you start browsing.
by Lola&Lykke Team
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