The AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) Section on Breastfeeding, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Academy of Family Physicians, Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, World Health Organization, United Nations Children’s Fund, and many other health organizations recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. A study by Harvard Medical School last year showed that if 90 percent of mothers followed the standard medical advice of feeding infants only breast milk for their first six months, the United States could save $13 billion a year in health care costs and prevent the premature deaths of 900 infants each year from respiratory illness and other infections.
However, in the U.S., while 75 percent of mothers start out breastfeeding, only 13 percent of babies are exclusively breastfed at the end of six months.
In 2009, half of all mothers with children younger than 12 months were employed, and more than two-thirds of those employed worked full-time.
Only four countries [on earth] offer no legal guarantee of paid maternity leave –Papua New Guinea, Swaziland, Liberia, and the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that only 11 percent of American employees have the option of taking paid medical leave.
Employed women have been less likely to initiate breastfeeding, and they tend to breastfeed for a shorter length of time than women who are not employed.
In 2009, only 15 U.S. states required that employers support breastfeeding employees when they return to work.
In 2010, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) required that employers provide reasonable, though unpaid, break time for a mother to express milk and a place, other than a restroom, that is private and clean where she can express her milk. As part of first lady Michelle Obama’s breastfeeding initiative, the IRS issued a ruling allowing mothers to use pretax money from their flexible spending accounts to cover the cost of breast pumps and other supplies.
Sarah Palin, conservative anti-Obama politician focused on promoting family values, publicly blasted and mocked Michelle Obama’s initiative after previously announcing she would feed her family S’Mores in protest of Mrs. Obama’s childhood obesity initiative. Meanwhile, Janet Walsh, deputy women’s rights director of Human Rights Watch states that “despite its enthusiasm about ‘family values’, the U.S. is decades behind other countries in ensuring the well-being of working families.”
Cultures who have low incidence of postpartum mental illness all have rituals that provide support and care for new mothers. These cultures exhibit several protective social structures. Such structures include “a distinct postpardum period” and “functional assistance.”
An anthropological study of the American postpardum experience is described: “She may or may not have anyone to help her at home, chances are no one at the hospital has even asked. Her mate will probably return to work within the week, and she is left alone to make sure she has enough to eat, to teach herself to breastfeed, and to recuperate from birth. The people who provided attention during her pregnancy are no longer there, and the people who do come around are often more interested in the baby. There probably are resources in her community that can help, but she has no idea where they are and feels too overwhelmed to seek them out for herself. So she must fend for herself as best she can.”
Let’s get with it, America. Now THAT is Freakingridiculous.