Many of us have heard or seen the phrase, #normalizebreastfeeding, but what does it mean, exactly, to “normalize” something that’s seemingly so… normal? It starts with being an advocate for the breastfeeding community—regardless of your personal journey.
Connecticut Children's Lactation Nurse, Mary Lussier, shares 5 ways anyone can become a breastfeeding advocate.
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1. Get the facts about breast milk feeding, and if you aren’t sure, just ask!
First, feeding the baby from a breast—or nursing—and pumping breastmilk, then feeding from a bottle are both breast milk feeding. So for the purposes of this blog, we’ll use the term, “breast milk feeding.”
Second, there are many more myths and misconceptions about breast milk feeding, several of which are answered in this blog, Answers to the Most Common Questions about Breastfeeding.
2. If you’re breast milk feeding or supporting someone who is, get involved and make connections with others.
Want guidance, support or genuine human connection along your breast milk feeding journey? Helpful support groups exist—whether for you or for someone you care about. Start by asking your hospital’s lactation consultant or your pediatrician for recommendations—both are great resources!
3. Learn about the barriers to breast milk feeding in society and why they exist.
Many mothers want to breastfeed, but stop early because of lack of support. This lack of support may happen in the workplace, out in the community or because of the inability to access lactation consultation or counseling services. Just some other barriers to breast milk feeding include:
- Lack of knowledge about breast milk feeding as a topic.
- Embarrassment because breast milk feeding still has a public stigma attached to it.
- Little to no availability of places to feed in public.
- Milk production or latching problems.
While breast milk feeding inequities in the US are slowly improving, studies show that Black and Hispanic communities breast milk feed for much less time overall than other groups. Plus, according to the CDC, breast milk feeding rates vary across states and regions in the US.
What can one person do? Write to your local legislatures and advocate for better breast milk feeding accommodations and access to resources. Encourage others to do the same. Word of mouth can oftentimes make a world of difference.
4. Break the stigma surrounding breast milk feeding.
Be part of the solution! Use the hashtag, #normalizebreastfeeding to your comfort level, for yourself or for a loved one. Share knowledge, articles and resources. Instead of being a bystander, speak up the next time you witness a public display of unfriendliness toward a breast-milk-feeding mother.
5. Join the community in recognizing World Breastfeeding Week, National Breastfeeding Month and Black Breastfeeding Week.
All of these celebratory recognitions have one purpose: to raise awareness and encourage action around all things breastfeeding across the world.
- World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated the first week of August every year.
- National Breastfeeding Month, established by the US Breastfeeding Committee, is recognized all of August and invites conversation, outreach and action around breast milk feeding.
- Black Breastfeeding Week, recognized the last week of August, is a new, up-and-coming movement to support the Black breast milk feeding community.
To become a breastfeeding advocate, one must acknowledge the amazing benefits of breast milk but also obstacles, challenges and inequities many breast milk feeding people face in our country.
Additional Sources for Further Reading: