Breastfeeding can be more than just a physical challenge for a new mother. It can also be emotionally stressful if you don’t have a support system in place. While you may wish for full support from women in your life, you may find opposition from certain generations.
“Breast is best” wasn’t always the policy for newborns. Women who raised their children 40 years ago were not widely encouraged to breastfeed. Kentucky’s infant feeding pattern prior to the early 1970s was homemade formula, not breastfeeding, said Doraine Bailey, the Breastfeeding Support Services Program Coordinator at the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department.
“Older women who didn’t breastfeed at all were also probably offering a lot of solid foods a lot earlier in a baby’s life, prior to even 4 months of age. So, if the baby isn’t the huge, roly-poly baby of 30 and 40 years ago, those women may assume the baby is ‘starving’ regardless of how he’s being fed.”
Research shows that most babies don’t need anything but mother’s milk until 6 months of age. At that point, they become developmentally ready to start adding ‘family foods’ to their diets.
“This isn’t necessarily because they need a lot more calories or nutrients,” Bailey said. “It’s because they’re old enough to learn a new skill – eating semi-solid foods from a spoon.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics released the newest version of their policy statement on breastfeeding in the May 2012 issue of Pediatrics. The policy reiterates that most babies should exclusively breastfeed until about 6 months, begin introducing complementary foods along with breastfeeding until 12 months, and then continue breastfeeding as long as mutually desired.
When faced with older women who may doubt your breastfed child’s health, don’t let their disapproval get you down. Rest assured in the facts you have about breastfeeding and try to be understanding of this generational knowledge gap.
Bailey suggests these tips if you face confrontation over your breastfeeding practices:
- Use the AAP policy as “ammunition” to defend your decision.
- Have your child’s growth chart handy to prove she is healthy (you can get this from your pediatrician.)
- When dining with family, you can feed the baby some solids at the same time so they can see the child isn’t “starving.”
- Point out how healthy your baby is – and that everyone wants a healthy baby!
You can check the Lexington Family events calendar to find breastfeeding support groups and classes in your area.