This year, 2021, marks two anniversaries whose ripple effects continue to work their way slowly into the fabric of our communities locally and globally.
It is the 65th anniversary of La Leche League International. In 1956 when the organization was founded, breastfeeding was not widely practiced or generally encouraged by the medical community.
One of the beautiful aspects of La Leche League International is the affiliation with medical doctors to give advice in cases of difficulty while women receive general breastfeeding support from experienced mothers. It's the best of both worlds and sparked the concept of “mothering through breastfeeding.”
And this year marks the 40th anniversary of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes. The code was created in an attempt to reign in aggressive and inappropriate marketing practices of formula companies.
Even 40 years ago, the World Health Organization had clear recommendations for feeding infants and young children. In the time since its inception, more evidence has shown the protective quality of human milk for infants and the health protective act of breastfeeding for mothers. The act of breastfeeding is one that can actually remove a level of health care disparity in a mother and child, improve their chance to have a healthful life, and prevent disease.
Our local Women Infants and Children program breastfeeding peer counselor uses a form to ask about the mother's support system and access to information about breastfeeding. A section in particular asks about their doctor's opinion. Most people check that their doctor has no opinion or has not offered one at all.
Breastfeeding is a biological norm for humans and an extension of gestation. No matter how a family plans to feed their baby, breasts will be making changes to prepare to feed baby, and that baby's body is preparing to receive human milk. Should not doctors, who are the experts in the human body and its processes, have information to share?
Both obstetricians and pediatricians should be considered a main source of information on the process of breastfeeding and how it affects both mother and baby. Not having and not offering information on this gigantic portion of the process of child rearing is ridiculous. Doctors are expected to have information and give opinions on safe sleep practices, when to introduce solid foods and what car seat to use, but they don't have any information to offer on breastfeeding?
Doctors need to expand their knowledge of breastfeeding so that parents have somewhere to go to find the information they need. The burden of education should not be on parents any more than they should be diagnosing and treating their own pregnancy complications.
Sarah Stock, RDN, LD, IBCLC, is the breastfeeding coordinator at Northwest Wisconsin Community Services Agency.