Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Once-endangered NYC breastfeeding rights could save countless lives

A few years ago, a paper named “the rule” put an end to the world of moms who “assumed all would be fine if they just breastfed until the baby was breastfed.” News articles celebrated not only motherly persistence but also the gorgeous milk, which could start trickle as early as the 12th week of pregnancy.

Since then, the rule has gone out the window. Many moms, it seems, are breastfeeding to the point where their babies have started to get sick. It’s a huge relief, one mom explained to me, but it could be an even bigger source of guilt: “You start to resent having babies.”

So many moms choose not to breastfeed, and are perfectly happy not to, that most medical professionals aren’t recommending it. The American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines now explicitly say mothers should follow their bodies’ natural preferences. And a recent study from the University of Washington found that mothers who breastfeed are more likely to use treatments, such as vitamins and vitamins A and D, to alleviate sore nipples.

But a lot of moms just can’t come up with a good reason to stop. And with the 18th anniversary of the law changing our definition of privacy this November, the New York State Breastfeeding Promotion and Legislation Act might have a shot at regulating reasons for not being able to breastfeed.

× Expand Courtesy of New York State Department of Health Sponsored by the New York State Health Department and the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, this public campaign encourages New York mothers to “Be aware of the areas in which you might be breaching your privacy.”

Mothers have expressed the same sentiment as Jennifer Crockett of Connecticut, who went viral when she complained on Facebook that she was “literally dying” from milk produced at such a high level and she didn’t know where to hide it. Crockett’s complaint about discovering bottles of solidified breast milk in her purse and toiletry bag was dismissed by some on Facebook who argued that it was important to be able to feed a baby in public, especially during a pregnancy. Others suggested that she should seek a new room.

Crockett told me that the strongest appeal of breastfeeding is the physical benefit, and “when the changes that you get in your body during breastfeeding are just ten times better than anything you could get from the baby.”

I never felt any guilt for my meager amounts of breast milk as a new mom. I could easily feed my then 2-month-old without handing her over to a stranger.

One of my biggest reasons for continuing, though, was the pleasure of curling up on my favorite pillow and nursing. Now that I have a family of my own, breastfeeding is still a source of pleasure and pride for me, and I doubt many have really considered why they felt the need to save up for a better bedding setup.

× Expand Courtesy of New York State Department of Health New York’s Affordable Family Health Coverage, also known as the Wende Act, will launch in 2019. A substantial increase in coverage for both lactation rooms and breast pumps is in store for New York moms.

Thankfully, a provision within a forthcoming health bill from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D, will enable both new and long-time mamas to use free, professional-grade free breast pumps that run about $200.

Cuomo’s Healthy New York Act, as the legislation is known, not only expands New York’s existing comprehensive guidelines for breastfeeding, but the state’s already enormous investments in care for new mothers. It will make coverage of lactation rooms and breast pumps a reality. It will also add support for parents who continue breastfeeding and will directly address barriers to breastfeeding.

In short, the baby got fed at the end of a long day, and now mom has some protection. We’re so grateful she feels free to do so.

Photo credit: Tolga G. Caner/Getty Images

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