The promotion of breastfeeding

Why do I feel pressured to breastfeed?

Mothers sometimes feel pressured to breastfeed by health-care providers or the state. The job of health-care providers is to explain the advantages and disadvantages of possible choices and plans. It is the mother's role to decide on a plan. Mothers who feel uncomfortable should tell their health-care provider, who may not understand the situation. Hospitals and other organizations may promote breastfeeding, sometimes without recognizing the barriers mothers face.

A) Health-care providers

Some mothers feel pressured to breastfeed by health-care providers or the state.

The job of a health-care provider is to point out all the tools in your health tool box and the advantages and disadvantages of each based on current research. It is your job to choose the ones you believe will work for you and your family.

If you feel pressured, uncomfortable, or unsupported, tell your health-care provider, who may be unaware of other problems you are facing. Good communication can help. Mothers may also feel guilty in this situation.

B) When the state promotes breastfeeding

Some government agencies, hospitals, or health-care organizations use breastfeeding campaigns to increase rates and duration. Mothers are often targeted.

While the intention is good, breastfeeding promotion often does not recognize the complex issues and barriers that mothers face. They are asked to breastfeed, yet:

  • Their health-care providers may not be in a position to help.
  • Hospital practices may interfere with breastfeeding.
  • Their partners or families may not support breastfeeding.
  • Breasts are heavily sexualized and mothers may not be able to breastfeed comfortably in public.
  • They are the targets of aggressive marketing by the makers of infant formula.
  • They may be forced to return to work before they are ready.
  • Their workplaces may not support breastfeeding.
  • Racial, gender, socioeconomic, and ethnic inequality are barriers to breastfeeding.

The responsibility of breastfeeding should be shared. It is unethical to hold mothers solely responsible for its success or failure. The goal should be to ensure that society values breastfeeding and to create the conditions that allow mothers to breastfeed if they choose to do so.