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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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There are certain moments of parenthood that stay with us forever. The ones that feel a little extra special than the rest. The ones that we always remember, even as time moves forward.

The first day of school will always be one of the most powerful of these experiences.

I love thinking back to my own excitement going through it as a child—the smell of the changing seasons, how excited I was about the new trendy outfit I picked out. And now, I get the joy of watching my children go through the same right of passage.

Keep the memory of this time close with these 10 pictures that you must take on the first day of school so you can remember it forever, mama:

1. Getting on the school bus.

Is there anything more iconic than a school bus when it comes to the first day of school? If your little one is taking the bus, snap a photo of them posed in front of the school bus, walking onto it for the first time, or waving at you through the window as they head off to new adventure.

2. Their feet (and new shoes!)

Getting a new pair of shoes is the quintessential task to prepare for a new school year. These are the shoes that will support them as they learn, play and thrive. Capture the sentimental power of this milestone by taking photos of their shoes. You can get a closeup of your child's feet, or even show them standing next to their previous years of first-day-of-school shoes to show just how much they've grown. If you have multiple children, don't forget to get group shoe photos as well!

3. Posing with their backpack.

Backpacks are a matter of pride for kids so be sure to commemorate the one your child has chosen for the year. Want to get creative? Snap a picture of the backpack leaning against the front door, and then on your child's back as they head out the door.

4. Standing next to a tree or your front door.

Find a place where you can consistently take a photo year after year—a tree, your front door, the school signage—and showcase how much your child is growing by documenting the change each September.

5. Holding a 'first day of school' sign.

Add words to your photo by having your child pose with or next to a sign. Whether it's a creative DIY masterpiece or a simple printout you find online that details their favorites from that year, the beautiful sentiment will be remembered for a lifetime.

6. With their graduating class shirt.

When your child starts school, get a custom-designed shirt with the year your child will graduate high school, or design one yourself with fabric paint (in an 18-year-old size). Have them wear the shirt each year so you can watch them grow into it—and themselves!

Pro tip: Choose a simple color scheme and design that would be easy to recreate if necessary—if your child ends up skipping or repeating a year of school and their graduation date shifts, you can have a new shirt made that can be easily swapped for the original.

7. Post with sidewalk chalk.

Sidewalk chalk never goes out of style and has such a nostalgic quality to it. Let your child draw or write something that represents the start of school, like the date or their teacher, and then have them pose next to (or on top of) their work.

8. In their classroom.

From first letters learned to complicated math concepts mastered, your child's classroom is where the real magic of school happens. Take a few pictures of the space where they'll be spending their time. They will love remembering what everything looked like on the first day, from the decorations on the wall to your child's cubby, locker or desk.

9. With their teacher.

If classrooms are where the magic happens, teachers are the magicians. We wish we remembered every single teach we had, but the truth is that over time, memories fade. Be sure to snap a photo of your child posing with their teacher on the first day of school.

10. With you!

We spend so much time thinking about our children's experience on the first day of school, we forget about the people who have done so much to get them there—us! This is a really big day for you too, mama, so get in that photo! You and your child will treasure it forever.

This article is sponsored by Rack Room Shoes. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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In America, mothers have the right to breastfeed their child in public, but what about when you're on an airplane? That's the issue one California mom, Shelby Angel, brought to light after she had a bad experience on Dutch airline KLM.

In a Facebook post that has gone viral Shelby explained:

"Before we even took off, I was approached by a flight attendant carrying a blanket. She told me (and I quote) "if you want to continue doing the breastfeeding, you need to cover yourself." I told her no, my daughter doesn't like to be covered up. That would upset her almost as much as not breastfeeding her at all. She then warned me that if anyone complained, it would be my issue to deal with (no one complained. On any of the flights I took with my daughter. Actually, no one has ever complained to me about breastfeeding in public. Except this flight attendant)."

Shelby's post gained traction but soon the conversation spread to Twitter, where another woman, Heather Yemm, asked KLM to explain its breastfeeding policy.

The airline responded, "To ensure that all our passengers of all backgrounds feel comfortable on board, we may request a mother to cover herself while breastfeeding, should other passengers be offended by this." Twitter users didn't like this response and even started asking other airlines about their breastfeeding policies.




British Airways confirmed it welcomes breastfeeding onboard and a Delta rep tweeted that the airline's policy is to "allow a breastfeeding mother to feed her child on board in a manner she feels comfortable with."

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That sounds like a good plan to us. Southwest was also questioned by Twitter users and confirmed that "Southwest does indeed welcome nursing mothers who wish to breastfeed on the aircraft and/or within our facilities".

This important online conversation underscores how vital it is for airlines to have supportive policies in place and train staff on those policies. Back in March, a Canadian mom made international headlines after an Air Canada call center representative told her to nurse in an airplane bathroom (a suggestion that is contrary to Air Canada's own policies).

It's time for every airline to recognize that breastfeeding needs to be welcomed and that all staff members need to understand this. Whether a mother uses a cover or not needs to be up to her, not a flight attendant or other passengers.

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There are a lot of points during labor when mothers do not have any control over what's going on with their body. The one thing they usually have, if giving birth vaginally, is their ability to push. But a recent report by Vice highlights the fact that in some hospital delivery rooms, women are being told to stop pushing, even when the urge is nearly irresistible. And in some cases, this may be happening for some very troubling reasons.

"If a woman's cervix is fully dilated and she has the urge, she should be allowed to push, barring some unusual complication with mother or baby," Dana Gossett, chief of gynecology at the University of California, San Francisco, Medical Center, told Vice.

Writer Kimberly Lawson gathered anecdotal evidence suggesting that in many situations, hospital nurses are telling women to stop pushing because the doctor or midwife isn't available to deliver the baby. In some cases, women even report nurses forcing a baby's crowning head back into the birth canal.

"I've never felt a more painful experience in my life [than] being strapped down and forced to hold a baby in," says Elaina Loveland, a mother who was told to stop pushing because there were no beds available at the hospital when she arrived. "It was almost worse than the pushing. It was horrible."

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In addition to pain, women made to resist the urge to push may experience other complications. Delayed pushing sometimes causes labor to last longer, puts women at higher risk of postpartum bleeding and infection, and puts babies at a higher risk of developing sepsis, according to a study released last year. One midwife explained in the article that holding the baby in can damage a mother's pelvic floor, which might later cause urinary incontinence.

In one extreme case, Caroline Malatesta, a mother of four in Alabama said that when a nurse forced her baby's head back in, she caused permanent damage. After four years of chronic pain from a condition called pudendal neuralgia, she won a $16 million lawsuit against the hospital.

Nurses aren't necessarily being cruel when they instruct mothers to stop pushing, by the way. They may be hoping to prevent other complications, such as problems with the umbilical cord or shoulder dystocia. A doctor or midwife is better trained to correct such situations, and can also help prevent perineal tearing.

If hospital staff are instead making these decisions because of a shortage of obstetricians or hospital beds for expectant mothers, there's a systemic problem that needs to be addressed. As people have grown increasingly aware of the high rate of maternal deaths after childbirth, issues like these could point out where there's room for improvement.

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If you feel like you're paying too much of your household's income for childcare, you are not alone. The average cost per family in the U.S. has gone up far faster than median household incomes over the last six years. No wonder many families are feeling the crunch.

According to a new survey from Care.com, families paid 26% more for nannies to care for one child in 2018 than they did in 2013, going from an average of $472 per week to $596. The difference in childcare centers isn't quite as drastic, from $186 to $213, about a 14% increase. After-school babysitting went up from $181 to $244 per week, a stunning 35% rise. All of this is a faster rate than the median household income, which rose about 11% from 2013-2017.

When you drill down, the numbers spell out why this is hurting families. The 2019 Cost of Care Survey from Care.com showed that over 70% of families devote more than 10% of their income to childcare costs, and more than 40% spend more than 15% of their income. That's more than twice as much as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' definition of affordable childcare, which is 7%.

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Of course, most families find a way to make it work, because what choice to they have? Survey respondents told Care.com that they do this by cutting down on spending and saving less for the future. They also wind up working fewer hours and having fewer children. These sacrifices by parents can also wind up costing the economy in terms of growth.

There were some other interesting findings of the survey. If you're looking for a place to relocate your family, New Jersey turns out to be the most affordable place to hire a nanny, while North Dakota has the most affordable childcare centers. New Mexico has the least affordable nannies, and Washington, D.C., has the least affordable childcare centers. Maybe if more of the nation's lawmakers had to put their kids in daycare near the capitol, they'd step up their actions to change things.

Most of the candidates in the 2020 presidential election have laid out plans for either universal childcare, larger tax credits, or subsidized care. President Trump has proposed a one-time $1 billion investment in childcare, structured so that states would have to apply to receive some of the funding. At this point, so many parents out there will take any help they can get.

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If there's anything Jessica Alba isn't afraid of it's taking on a new challenge. When she started The Honest Company, an all-natural baby and beauty brand, seven-and-a-half years ago she had no idea her hard work and dedication would morphe into a billion-dollar business.

Now the entrepreneur is taking on her newest ongoing challenge of mothering three children with ease. "Everyone says you're outnumbered [when you have more than two kids] and that it's challenging, but I really like it," says the 38-year-old. "I think because I have such an age gap between my two girls [her oldest daughter Honor is 11, and middle daughter Haven is eight], it brought us together as a family in a different way. We really got to bond over the birth of my third child."

According to Alba when her son Hayes, who's now one-and-a-half, was born her daughters treated him like a real-life baby doll, while she and her husband of 10 years, Cash Warren, reveled in having a kid they actually planned. Alba finds peace in having a set routine in her life these days.

In fact, a large part in the key to maintaining her sanity as a busy mama is sticking with a schedule. "My husband and I were very regimented from day one on sleep and feeding times," she says about the first months as a mother to three kids. "We also stuck to the routine of not having the children sleep with us when they were really young. It gave my husband and I time to be alone."

But being a celebrity and businesswoman doesn't exclude her from parenting challenges—particularly at bedtime. She admits that she was surprised at how difficult putting three kids to bed can be when they prefer to cuddle for two hours instead of laying down. But even if her schedule is thrown off a bit, the routine she establishes is ultimately better for the entire family.

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Family aside, personally, Alba overcame issues of feeling insecure and the idea of constantly having to be a perfect mother. "I was really insecure when I was 27 years old with my first child," she says. "It took me a year after every kid to feel normal again and get comfortable with the fact that my body is different and it's okay. I'm a lot more confident now."

When she's not busy managing Honest (which is set to launch a line of eczema products at Honest.com on July 23), Alba enjoys traveling and getting out of her comfort zone. "It's nice to see how other people live because it helps you figure out how you want to live," says Alba regarding her most recent family trip to Montenegro. "While there, it was so cool to see the kids out of their comfort zone. We spent a week in a place that none of us had any expectations on what it was, and we didn't do anything all day. We just literally hung out with each other. It was so nice."

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