When it comes to breastfeeding, there are many mixed messages given by society as a whole, and even by doctors. Some examples:
-Breastfeed, but oh one bottle of formula won’t hurt! (instead of giving actual support and information)
-Breastfeed, but you aren’t going to do that here, are you?! Go in another room or cover up! Better yet, give a bottle in public!
-Breastfeed, but aren’t you going to stop now?! The child has teeth/can talk/is too old for it now! (this can be said at any arbitrary age)
-Breastfeeding is best for babe, but don’t breastfeed past some arbitrary age because then the milk is somehow magically diminished and surely the mum is just doing it for herself by then.
With all the mixed messages out there, is it any wonder breastfeeding rates are so abysmal? Many women say they want to breastfeed and even start out breastfeeding, but is it so shocking when they stop before they planned, either from lack of support, misinformation, or societal pressure? There is no one solution to this, though the UNICEF Baby-Friendly initiative can surely help, if more hospitals adopt it. Seeing women openly, unashamedly breastfeed in public can slowly help to change societal perceptions. Since learning to breastfeed is greatly helped by seeing other women breastfeed, this would also help women overcome misconceptions or just realise that it can be done. Educating medical professionals will also go a long way towards changing breastfeeding rates for the better, since some mums end up stopping after being given poor advice from nurses or doctors. Perhaps another thing is for all of us to examine our preconceptions so we aren’t the ones undermining mothers.