Breastfeeding in the Modern Age
Find out why choosing to nurse has become such a public issue. Plus surprising breastfeeding tips, tricks, and facts of today.
I am sitting on a patch of grass in a public park—topless . Well, almost. The one thing between my boobs and the roughly 1.5 million Chicago Marathon spectators surrounding me is my husband's tissue-thin windbreaker.
Beads of perspiration (hey, it's 84 degrees outside) make pumping under a jacket a slippery operation, but I wasn't going to let breastfeeding my then 3-month-old daughter get in the way of cheering my sister across the finish line.
Let me tell you, ladies: Breastfeeding. Takes. Commitment. And not just the emptying-engorged-breasts-in-the-presence-of-millions-of-people kind of commitment. We're talking about attaching yourself (literally) to either your baby or your breast pump in an era when a successful businesswoman (Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, you know who you are!) announces she's going to work through some of her maternity leave—a move that may make your boss wonder why you're not doing the same. It's a commitment that means dealing with anyone and everyone's opinion. The longer you nurse (which is really the goal here, right?) the more likely the reaction will be amazement or disgust. Just ask Jamie Lynne Grumet, who nursed her then 3-year-old son on Time magazine's cover. Here's the deal: Breastfeeding is more in the spotlight than ever. Beyoncé, Angelina, and Gwen Stefani have done it—openly. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urge all mothers to do it. Heck, the IRS is even paying people to do it, announcing tax breaks for breast pumps last year. But there are still plenty of moms—one of every four—who start their babies on formula and never look back. “We can celebrate the fact that breastfeeding rates have been rising since 1990, but our work isn't done,” says Cria Perrine, Ph.D., a CDC public-health expert focusing on infant feeding. “Seventy-five percent of women start breastfeeding in the hospital, but only 44 percent are breastfeeding at six months. And there are racial disparities—74 percent of Caucasian and more than 80 percent of Hispanic and Asian moms breastfeed for at least some period of time, but just over half of black mothers do. We're obviously not giving all women the support they need.”