Breastfeeding: Your Decision, Not Society's

Most commonly, when people think of difficulties surrounding breastfeeding, the following to mind: cracked nipples, difficulties latching on, minimal milk production and constant feedings. However, most of us do not consider the impact that society has on a woman's ability or willingness to nurse. There exist many societal barriers regarding breastfeeding and I wanted to discuss some of them in further detail. Ladies, know that you are not alone if you've struggled with some or all of the following.

1. Limited Access to Lactation Consultants and Breast Pumps: When dealing with breastfeeding difficulties, it is always wise to consult with a lactation specialist or to join a breastfeeding support group. It is easy to feel alone and overwhelmed when you have no one to turn to. Rest assured! Many women struggle with breastfeeding and having a specialist to discuss feelings and techniques with is sometimes all you need. Bozeman Deaconess does have Lactation Specialists on hand that consult with new moms and are readily available for further counseling if needed. Meetings are held as well to help educate new moms and mom-to-be. Bozeman also has a chapter of the La Leche League, a breastfeeding awareness and support group, which meets regularly and discusses common issues and is a great opportunity to meet other moms.

2. Working Moms: With maternity leave being limited, or unrealistic, for many working moms, it becomes difficult to keep up with breastfeeding. New moms are required to either bring their babies to work (not always permitted) or to bring their breast pump with them and store milk while at work (if they have time!). For some, the easier alternative is to rely on formula, which many families do.

3. Advertisements for Formula: Society markets infant formula A LOT! You cannot read any literature, magazine or child-friendly programming without seeing an advertisement for formula. Because of this, and it's ease of availability, many families turn to formula instead of nursing. I'm not going to go into which is better in this blog, however, if you do choose formula, don't do it simply because society tells you to!

4. Societal Attitudes: Lastly, society's direct views regarding breastfeeding. It seems that there is a stigma attached to breastfeeding moms, especially those who do it in public, and it is widely frowned upon. While modesty is key, nowadays, there are numerous nursing covers that are available that can be used in these social situations which allow a mom to nurse practically anywhere without offending others or being obscene (according to some).

If you choose not to breastfeed, that is your choice, but do so because of personal or biological reasons, not because of society's influence on you. Do not be afraid to seek out support or ask questions. Many moms are going through the same issues you are and professionals are there to help.

Below are helpful links to support groups in the area and lactation specialists:

La Leche League of Montana

Montana Lactation Consultants

Bozeman Deaconess Hospital