Just this month (August) the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released it’s 2012 Breastfeeding Report Card. The news was good. In areas of initiating breastfeeding, breastfeeding friendly hospitals, and breastfeeding at 6 and 12 months, the percentage is higher than last year.
When looking at the data for each individual state, one can clearly see how policy can affect breastfeeding. New Hampshire, for example, is a one of the leaders in breastfeeding promotion. Judging from their website, New Hampshire Breastfeeding Task Force, they also promote co-sleeping as an important component to breastfeeding. Massachusetts also ranks high. In July of 2011, they were the second state to ban the wide spread practice of formula-laden goodie bags.
One can also see how breastfeeding practices can also suffer in other states. My home state of Mississippi is at the bottom of the breastfeeding ranking. Interestingly enough, Mississippi has really good breastfeeding laws. In addition to protecting nursing in public, Mississippi also makes it possible for nursing mothers to be excused as jurors and to allow adequate break time at work for pumping. They also require all child care facilities to provide nursing mothers a place to pump outside a bathroom, a place to store breastmilk, requires training of staff members about the proper handling of expressed breast milk, and to post breastfeeding information at the facility. So why is Mississippi at the very bottom?
Part of the reason is because it is also one of the poorest states in the United States. As I indicated in a previous article, low income families are less likely to initiate and sustain breastfeeding. This is more evident among the black population, which according to the 2011 US census is 37.3 percent of the population (in the United States blacks account for 13.1 percent).
Also I believe it’s social stigma. I never saw anyone in my 22 years of living there breastfeeding. Mississippians are more likely to pump and feed their children by bottle if they are to breastfeed at all. Also one blogger told me that her breastfeeding group is comprised of four women including herself and her sister.
For more anecdotal evidence, a friend of mine used her rib her then boyfriend about being breastfed. She asked him if he remembered his mother’s breasts and remarked at how gross breastfeeding is. He was the first person I met in Mississippi that I knew was breastfed. I was in college. To this day, I don’t know any other of my Mississippi peers who were breastfed and very few children born in Mississippi who are breastfed either. It’s really quite staggering.
So the report card teaches us that having laws in your favor certainly help promote breastfeeding, but having society endorse breastfeeding is even better.
Article by Laura Weirich
Laura Weirich has been married for four years and has two sons. She's been breastfeeding for nearly two years and currently tandem nurses her toddler and infant. A big proponent of breastfeeding, she's been educating her friends and family about the benefits of breastfeeding and helping other women along the way. When she's not nursing, she chases a toddler all day, washes cloth diapers, tries to catch a few zs and reads up on the latest research about children.
Laura has written 33 awesome articles for Natural Family Today.