This may seem like a dry, legalistic-sounding (maybe even boring) document but it says something that I find really exciting:
Resolve that the Academy advise pediatricians not to provide formula company gift bags, coupons, and industry-authored handouts to the parents of newborns and infants in office and clinic settings
Until we have donor milk readily available for all babies that need more milk than their mothers provide, formula will have an important role in safely feeding babies. However, doctors shouldn’t be the (inadvertent) salespeople for the formula companies. Free samples from doctors effectively promote that particular brand of formula, generally a more expensive brand than a family might otherwise choose. Literature from formula companies generally doesn’t have good breastfeeding information. Families can get much better basic information and support from many other sources. There is no need at all for industry-authored handouts. I’m excited that the AAP is encouraging pediatricians to (as the Ban the Bags folks would say) “market health and nothing else”. To read more about this issue in general, check out Ban the Bags.
It can be hard to know how a breastfeeding mother and family will be affected by laws. First of all it can be hard to find out what the laws say. Then knowing what they say isn’t enough – most of us that aren’t lawyers (that is, most of us) need help understanding what the laws mean. This website by Jake Aryeh Marcus, breastfeedinglaw.com, has both the texts and the explanations to help. Check it out!
Last year a new law was passed that requires employers to provide a space and break time for breastfeeding mothers to pump for their babies. These links have information about what the law provides and how to file a complaint. One nice thing about the law is that it acknowledges the variation between mothers in how often and how long they need to pump (“Employers are required to provide a reasonable amount of break time to express milk as frequently as needed by the nursing mother. The frequency of breaks needed to express milk as well as the duration of each break will likely vary.”)
Fact Sheet #73: Break Time for Nursing Mothers under the FLSA
FAQs about break time for nursing mothers
How to file a complaint
I have been listening to a talk by Dr. Joy Noel-Weiss on how breastfeeding professionals talk about breastfeeding (GOLD11 conference). She notes that we refer to the breast instead of mother’s or your breast. She also points out that many or even most breastfeeding photos show just the baby with maybe a little bit of breast (check out the photos at the top of INFACT Canada’s website for an example). We emphasize the value of breastmilk but down play the value of breastfeeding.
She asks the question “Are we missing something?” I say yes. My own experience has been that the breastfeeding relationship is very important – it is more than just the milk. That is why the photographs that I use for my business cards show the lovely mothers as well as their beautiful babies.
The exclusion of breastpumps from accepted flexible medical spending account spending made the front page of the New York Times this week. Breastfeeding advocates have been frustrated by this apparent lack of support for breastfeeding but a thoughtful post from Alison Stuebe of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine points out how complicated this issue is:
I’m strangely ambivalent about the decision to exclude pumps from flexible spending accounts. I worry about the pervasiveness of breast pumps in breastfeeding in the US. Pump companies have pushed mightily to convince every American mother that an electric breast pump is an essential, regardless of whether she plans to return to work. If FSAs covered pumps, I’m certain that pump manufacturers would step up their marketing to make sure that every American mother sets aside $300 tax-free dollars to buy that pump that she can’t possibly breastfeed without. Such a policy would be a windfall for pump companies – But I’m not convinced it would be good for breastfeeding.
One of the most disturbing facts that Dr. Stuebe cites is that about 1 in 7 women that uses a breastpump is injured by the pump. Pumping is not always a simple, harmless option that all women should feel like they need to choose.
Like with so many public policy issues there is no simple on-size-fits-all right answer here. For the health of women and children we need to support breastfeeding but we also need to be thoughtful about what that support includes. There needs to be a conversation about maternity leave options, peer support, and professional lactation support rather than just assuming that providing pumps is that same as being breastfeeding-friendly.
World breastfeeding week is the first week in August. It is a chance celebrate mothers nurturing their babies as well as a chance to let people know how important breastfeeding is to mothers’ and babies’ health.
The US Surgeon General used it as a chance to announce her plan to be a breastfeeding advocate
This fall, I will release a Surgeon General’s “Call to Action” that will draw from the best available science to explain how all sectors of the community can help create an environment that is supportive of mothers who choose to breastfeed. It will show how a community-wide approach can help reduce disparities among breastfeeding mothers and children of all backgrounds, and how to improve support for nursing women in their workplaces and communities.
Read the press release here.
It is easy to say “all babies should be breastfed” but then ignore the social context that mothers have to work within as they try to breastfeed their babies. This post from the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine does a great job addressing this issue. Here is a taste:
These issues transcend breastfeeding. Why, for example, do we pit “stay at home moms” against “working moms,” rather than demand high-quality, affordable child care, flexible work, and paid maternity leave so that each woman can pursue both market work and caring work, in the proportion she finds most fulfilling? Why do we accept that, if a woman devotes all of her time to caring for her family, she does not earn any social security benefits, whereas if she gets a paying job and sends her children to day care, she and her day care provider earn credits toward financial security in old age? And why do we enact social policies that subsidize child care and require poor mothers to enter the paid work force, rather than support poor mothers to care for their own children?