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10 reasons the U.S. should support breastfeeding policy

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The World Health Organization considers breastmilk the best source of nourishment for babies, and a generation of mothers have grown up hearing that "breast is best" (though we all know that fed is actually truly best). So when a recent report from The New York Times revealed the American government's strong opposition to a breastfeeding resolution at the World Health Assembly, many mothers and breastfeeding advocates wondered why.

The resolution comes after authors of a United Nations-backed study released last summer called on governments to further promote breastfeeding by enforcing guidelines around formula marketing and by legislating paid maternity leave policies.

Officials from the Department of Health and Human Services say they have reasons for opposing the resolution as it was originally written, including the intent to support mothers who need alternatives to breastfeeding. But there are at least 10 reasons why the the United States should support such a breastfeeding policy.

1. Because not a single country in the world meets all the recommended standards for breastfeeding

It's true, and the rates in the United States are lower than those in other parts of the world. According to the Global Breastfeeding Scorecard, fewer than 25% of American mothers breastfeed exclusively for the first six months, which is attributed in part to inadequate cultural support for breastfeeding and pumping moms.

2. The benefits of breastfeeding are well documented

Study after study has found that breastfeeding offers optimal nutritional and immune system benefits. Being breastfed lowers a baby's risks for asthma, obesity, type 2 diabetes, ear and respiratory infections and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), according to the Centers for Disease Control. Breastfeeding has also been linked to better heart health for mothers.

3. Breastfeeding can save lives

That same study suggests the lives of more than 823,000 children could be saved annually in lower income countries if exclusive breastfeeding was standard practice globally. Some 20,000 maternal deaths could be prevented, according to the researchers, because breastfeeding also has a lasting impact on a mother's health.

4. Breastfeeding could save billions of dollars

A 2016 study published in The Lancet estimates the adoption of exclusive breastfeeding would result in a savings of $300 billion dollars in health care spending, as babies would experience fewer infections and protection against health issues like obesity and diabetes.

5. Because women need support to succeed in breastfeeding

According to UNICEF, "Breastfeeding is not just a one woman job. It requires encouragement and support from skilled counsellors, family members, health care providers, employers, policymakers and others."

If countries want to increase their breastfeeding rates, they must first increase the support they provide to new mothers. This means developing policies to make sure mothers have access to paid family leave, paid breastfeeding breaks at work, and skilled lactation counseling among other resources. It also means putting controls in place to ensure formula marketers are not overly aggressive or inaccurate in their statements.

6. Without clean water, formula feeding can be dangerous


For millions of families around the world, reliable access to clean water and sterile bottles is far from a guarantee. Because babies can be exposed to water-borne pathogens through formula feeding, the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding is truly a matter of life or death in regions where access to clean water is restricted.

7. Because the American Academy of Pediatrics does

In a statement to Motherly, Dr. Colleen Kraft, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, states the AAP "strongly recommends" breastfeeding as the preferred feeding method for all infants.

"The AAP agrees we should promote, protect and support breastfeeding globally and in the U.S., and supports public policies that support mothers who are breastfeeding," Kraft says.

8. Because we need to close the "breastfeeding gap" in America and globally

A lack of support for new mothers, combined with cultural views on infant feeding and marketing efforts have contributed to what UNICEF calls the "breastfeeding gap": In low- or middle-income countries, an average of 96% of babies are breastfed. But in countries designated as "high-income," such as the United States, the United Kingdom and more, the average rate is 79%.

There's not only a gap between rich and poor countries, but also a gap between income levels within those countries.

"We know that wealthy mothers in poor countries are less likely to breastfeed, but somewhat paradoxically, we're seeing indications that in wealthy countries, it's the poor who are the least likely," Shahida Azfar, UNICEF's Deputy Executive Director said in a press release earlier this year.

"These breastfeeding gaps across income levels are a strong indication that countries, regardless of the level of wealth, are not informing and empowering every mother to breastfeed her baby."

9. It isn't mutually exclusive to promote breastfeeding or support formula feeding

The national spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services, Caitlin Oakley, tells Motherly "many women are not able to breastfeed for a variety of reasons, these women should not be stigmatized; they should be equally supported with information and access to alternatives for the health of themselves and their babies."

That is certainly true. Only, it is possible to both promote breastfeeding and support mothers who are not nursing.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists does so by both recommending exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, and also officially recognizing that a baby's mother "is uniquely qualified to decide whether exclusive breastfeeding, mixed feeding or formula feeding is optimal for her and her infant."

In the United Kingdom, the The Royal College of Midwives' new position statement on infant feeding advises that the midwives will both promote breastfeeding and recognize that "the decision of whether or not to breastfeed is a woman's choice and must be respected."

"We recognize that some women cannot or do not wish to breastfeed and rely on formula milk. They must be given all the advice and support they need on safe preparation of bottles and responsive feeding to develop a close and loving bond with their baby," RCM chief executive Gill Walton said when the position statement was announced last month.

10: Babies and mothers deserve a chance to experience breastfeeding

For some moms, breastfeeding is a time to nurture their baby's body while also nurturing the bond they have with them. Mothers and babies should get the chance to experience that connection, but too often, a lack of support and resources means mothers have to give up breastfeeding earlier than they intended.

It shouldn't be that way, but when mothers have short or non-existent maternity leaves, limited opportunities to pump or nurse at work, and don't have people they can turn to for help, breastfeeding becomes nearly impossible.

If the world doesn't first acknowledge the barriers that are preventing moms and babies from getting that chance to bond over breastfeeding, we won't be able to knock them down.


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As a mid-Spring holiday, we never knew exactly what to expect from the weather on Easter when I was growing up in Michigan: Would we get to wear our new Sunday dresses without coats? Or would we be hunting for eggs while wearing snowsuits?

Although what the temperature had in store was really anyone's guess, there were a few special traditions my sister and I could always depend on—and it won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that my favorite memories revolved around food. After all, experts say memories are strongest when they tie senses together, which certainly seems to be true when it comes to holiday meals that involve the sounds of laughter and the taste of amazing food.

Now that I'm a parent, I'm experiencing Easter anew as my children discover the small delights of chocolate, pre-church brunch and a multi-generational dinner. While I still look forward to the treats and feasting, I'm realizing now that the sweetest thing of all is how these traditions bring our family together around one table.

For us, the build-up to Easter eats is an extended event. Last year's prep work began weeks in advance when my 3-year-old and I sat down to plan the brunch menu, which involved the interesting suggestion of "green eggs and ham." When the big morning rolled around, his eyes grew to the size of Easter eggs out of pure joy when the dish was placed on the table.

This year, rather than letting the day come and go in a flash, we are creating traditions that span weeks and allow even the littlest members of the family to feel involved.

Still, as much as I love enlisting my children's help, I also relish the opportunity to create some magic of my own with their Easter baskets—even if the Easter Bunny gets the credit. This year, I'm excited to really personalize the baskets by getting an "adoptable" plush unicorn for my daughter and the Kinder Chocolate Mini Eggs that my son hasn't stopped talking about since seeing at the store. (You can bet this mama is stocking up on some for herself, too.)

At the same time, Easter as a parent has opened my eyes to how much effort can be required...

There is the selection of the right Easter outfits for picture-perfect moments.

There is the styling of custom Easter baskets.

There is the filling of plastic eggs and strategic placement of them throughout the yard.

But when the cameras are put away and we all join together around the table for the family dinner at the end of the day, I can finally take a deep breath and really enjoy—especially with the knowledge that doing the dishes is my husband's job.

This article was sponsored by Kinder. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


Our Partners

Pink opened up about her family's fight against coronavirus late Friday, taking to Instagram to make a big announcement.

"Two weeks ago my three-year old son, Jameson, and I are were showing symptoms of COVID-19," Pink revealed, noting that she tested positive and has since recovered.

She continued: "My family was already sheltering at home and we continued to do so for the last two weeks following the instruction of our doctor. Just a few days ago we were re-tested and are now thankfully negative. It is an absolute travesty and failure of our government to not make testing more widely accessible. This illness is serious and real."

FEATURED VIDEO

After dealing with the virus on a personal level and recognizing her privilege in being able to access testing, Pink decided to donate $1 million to fight coronavirus and hopefully protect others.

"In an effort to support the healthcare professionals who are battling on the frontlines every day, I am donating $500,000 to the Temple University Hospital Emergency Fund in Philadelphia in honor of my mother, Judy Moore, who worked there for 18 years in the Cardiomyopathy and Heart Transplant Center. Additionally, I am donating $500,000 to the City of Los Angeles Mayor's Emergency COVID-19 Crisis Fund," she announced via Instagram.

Pink ended her update by thanking the brave healthcare workers on the front lines and reminding the rest of us to stay home.

For more information on COVID-19 and how it is impacting families, visit mother.ly/coronavirus.

News

On Friday President Trump announced that the Centers for Disease Control is now advising people to wear a cloth mask if they need to go out in public. It's not a rule, he says, but a recommendation.

"It's really going to be a voluntary thing," President Trump told reporters. "I'm not choosing to do it."

First Lady Melania Trump is urging others to do it, tweeting, "As the weekend approaches I ask that everyone take social distancing & wearing a mask/face covering seriously. #COVID19 is a virus that can spread to anyone—we can stop this together."

What the CDC says about cloth face masks:

The CDC says it's recommending cloth face masks because recent studies show that people can have COVID-19 while asymptomatic, meaning they feel fine and because they don't know they are sick they might still be going about their daily routine in their community.

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Basically, masks don't protect the wearer as much as they protect people from the wearer (who might not know they are sick) by blocking respiratory droplets

"So it's not going to protect you, but it is going to protect your neighbor," Dr. Daniel Griffin at Columbia University, an expert on infectious diseases, tells NPR.

CDC experts are "advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure."

They say if you're going somewhere where it's hard to maintain the proper social distance of six feet, like a grocery store or a pharmacy, then it's a good idea to wear a simple cloth mask.

"The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance," the CDC states.

"You may need to improvise a cloth face covering using a scarf or bandana," the agency notes on its website.

A DIY cloth mask is an extra layer of protection:

The CDC still says that staying home and practicing good hand hygiene is the best protection against COVID-19, but a cloth mask would be an extra layer of protection if you must go out to get food or unavoidable medical care.

According to Dr. Scott Segal, chair of anesthesiology at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, certain types of fabric are better than others when it comes to making a mask. While he CDC says improvised bandanas or scarfs are better than nothing, Segal says DIY mask makers should aim a little higher for the masks to be effective.

"You have to use relatively high-quality cloth," Dr.Segal, who is researching this topic, tells NBC News.

According to Segal you don't want to use a knit fabric (like an old T-shirt) but rather a woven fabric. He suggests a double layer of heavyweight cotton with a thread count of at least 180 (like quilters cotton). If you don't have a cotton with that high of a thread count, line it with flannel.

For more tips on how to sew a fabric face mask, check out these instructions from Kaiser Permanente.

No-sew methods:

If you're not a sewer you can still fashion a mask, and there are plenty of no-sew tutorials online showing you how. Use heavyweight woven fabric like Segal suggests and make one of these without a sewing machine.

How To Make a Pleated Face Mask // Washable, Reusable, No-Sewing Required youtu.be

Should kids wear masks? Talk to your doctor.

The CDC is not recommending masks if you're just going for a walk around the block or playing in the backyard (which is the extent of most kids' outings these days). The masks are more for grocery runs, which many parents are opting to do alone these days.

But solo parents and those with partners who are in the military know that leaving the kids behind isn't always an option if you're the only adult in the home. If that's your circumstance, choose delivery options when possible to avoid taking your children to public places like grocery stores and pharmacies (the kinds of places the CDC recommends masks for).

If you are concerned that you may need to take your child somewhere where a mask would be required, call your pediatrician for advice on whether a mask is appropriate for your child's age and circumstances. Babies' faces should not be covered.

If you have no one to watch your children while you get groceries and cannot get them delivered try contacting your local government, community groups and churches for leads on grocery delivery help. They may be able to put you in touch with someone who can fetch groceries for you so that you don't have to take your children to the store with you.

News

Starting this weekend Target and Walmart will be limiting the number of people allowed in its stores to give shoppers and staff more space to spread out and adhere to social distancing recommendations during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Beginning April 4, Target will actively monitor and, when needed, limit the total number of people inside based on the store's specific square footage," Target notes in a news release.

Walmart's corporate message is similar: "Starting Saturday, we will limit the number of customers who can be in a store at once. Stores will now allow no more than five customers for each 1,000 square feet at a given time, roughly 20 percent of a store's capacity."

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At Target you will also notice staff wearing gloves and masks over the next two weeks as the company steps up its coronavirus protection measures.

Many people are choosing to stay home and order groceries online, but that's not an option for everyone as long lines at some Target's prove.

"We're incredibly proud of the commitment our more than 350,000 frontline team members have demonstrated to ensure millions of guests can count on Target, and we'll continue to focus our efforts on supporting them," says Target's Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, John Mulligan.

Target is open this weekend but—along with Costco, Aldi, Publix and Trader Joe's—Target stores will be closed on Easter Sunday to give the essential employees in these stores a much-deserved break.

News

As a mom of three and former social worker working for many years in the fields of adoption, Sara Ester of Sara Liz Photography knows firsthand the importance of family time. When she learned that families all over the country are self-isolating due to the coronavirus outbreak, she knew it was the perfect time to capitalize on moments of connections. Her mission was simple: promote family time to ease stress and promote happiness.

Liz reached out to dozens of families on social media asking if they would like to be photographed on their porch for a "Front Porch Session" and the responses were huge.

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Photo by: Sara Liz Photography

"Amid all the COVID-19 stuff going on I asked if families would be interested in a quick five-minute session on their front porches to document what a crazy experience it has been to be quarantined at home," Ester told Popsugar. "The people participating ran with it! So many families made funny or encouraging signs, showed up in their pajamas or yoga pants, and just really embraced the whole 'quarantine chic' idea. It was really reaffirming to see how everyone is in the same boat. We're all just trying to do the best we can with a crappy situation!"


Photo by: Sara Liz Photography

We're living in perilous times and it's nice to see families using the lockdown as an opportunity to bond. After all, it doesn't matter how big or small your house is, it's the love inside that counts.

Photo by: Sara Liz Photography


"Photography, specifically documentary photography is a big part of how I see and function in the world a lot of the time," Ester shared in an Instagram post. With everything being so overwhelming the last week or so, it has helped me to also keep in mind that what we are dealing with is historical."

News
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