As the debate rages on between advocates for breastfeeding and those who prefer formula, statistics have revealed a stark and unfair reality: not all mothers in the United States have equal access to the care, knowledge, and support that are required to breastfeed successfully.
In fact, while 93% of mothers from California breastfeed their babies, only 56% of Louisiana’s mothers do so. Additionally, statistics show that when a baby reaches six months of age, 68% of wealthy mothers are still breastfeeding, while only 38% of those living beyond the poverty line are able to do so.
Some reasons that mothers in economically-disadvantaged regions may find breastfeeding challenging include:
- Employment which does not provide adequate paid maternity leave or appropriate breaks to pump and store milk
- Hospitals with staff stretched thin which provide limited postpartum or lactation support
- A lack of connection to community and family for advice, support, and normalization of breastfeeding
Access to a supportive partner also makes a big difference in a mother’s ability to breastfeed her baby. At the six month mark, 60% of married mothers are still breastfeeding their babies, while only 29% of single mothers are able to do so.
Research into the ancient practice has verified what mothers have long known; breastfeeding is a sustainable, economically-sound way to feed babies that also encourages a closer bond with mom and actually contributes to both social and psychomotor development. It provides the baby with a healthy balance of key nutrients and antibodies and helps to assure a healthy start.
Knowing this makes it all the more significant that opportunities for breastfeeding aren’t equal to all mothers. As World Breastfeeding Week approaches, the World Alliance For Breastfeeding Action has embraced the message of sustainability for this year’s event. One of WABA’s main focuses as an organization is eliminating the obstacles that contribute to breastfeeding inequality, such as income disparity, lack of access to good health care and jobs, and barriers to education.
In acknowledging this inequality, it’s vitally important that we take a moment to hit pause on the so-called online “mommy wars” over breast versus bottle. If every mother is meant to be able to make her own decision in this matter, doing so must begin with equal access to breastfeeding for all moms.
This visualization from We The Parents handily demonstrates the significance of breastfeeding inequality and some key factors which play a role; have a look.