More data and knowledge on the importance of breastfeeding are being available as a result of technological advancements. Breastfeeding, also known as breastfeeding, is the greatest gift a mother can give her infant, particularly within the first six months. As a source of nutrients, constant breastfeeding means that babies are less vulnerable to diseases (Hvatum & Glavin, 2016). (Hvatum & Glavin, 2016). While the gains, a consistent pattern in the United States leads to a decrease in the number of breastfeeding moms (US). Mothers are less likely to breastfeed from generation to generation, preferring bottle-feeding as an option. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) asserts the decline in breastfeeding can be attributed to barriers such as inadequate social support (both at home and workplace) as well as the marketing pressure by formulae companies. The research paper will aim at discussing the nursing culture, history, and stigmatization in a bid to appreciate and understand breastfeeding in the United States.
Culture and History of Breastfeeding
Nursing is the natural process by which an infant receives nourishment from her mother. The act is done by sucking directly from the mothers breast to the babys mouth. Breastfeeding is begun from the first family of Adam when he sired Cain and Abel. In the absence of the mother, maybe due to illness or death, a surrogate mother would be called on the duty. The lack of a surrogate would lead to the infants death since formulae milk was not yet discovered. Such occasions accounted for the high rate of infant mortality. The 18th century saw the invention of goat and cow milk to substitute the mother. However, the effort was deemed inefficient since important nutrients were lacking to muscle a healthy baby. By the mid-19th century, an alternative of wet nursing was available by use of infant formulae (Rand, 2015).
Culturally, it is the responsibility of the mother to take care of her baby. According to the Linos, Kirch, and Stavros (2008), the decision of a mother on whether to nurse her baby or not is predetermined by her physical ability as well as her personal traditions and beliefs. Cultural and social norms also influence breastfeeding in the community. For most parts of the globe, nursing is widely accepted citing its nutritional values to the baby as it was endorsed by World Health Organization (WHO). What differs from region to region is the attitude towards the practice, its duration from birth as well as how it is done and where. It is of such standards that nursing has been viewed as a low-class activity. The modern generation faces difficulties in breastfeeding a child in public. The embarrassment, therefore, becomes a barrier to breastfeeding after maternity leave.
Without any reasonable doubt, the majority of women in the US are familiar to the praises of breast milk. However, there seems to be a lack of knowledge on the specific health benefits and risks concerning nursing and lack of breastfeeding on the babies as well as the mothers. According to a study carried by Kimura et al. (2015), only 13% of women knew that breastfeeding prevents the baby from obesity in their adult years. Another 57% were not aware that nursing helps the mother to reduce on pregnancy weight and prevent high blood pressure. Modern women also believe that thanks to research and technology, infant formula is equivalent to breast milk in terms of its nutrients and benefits. This assumption is fallacious.
Numerous pregnant mothers expect nursing to be an easy task. Contrary to popular opinion, breastfeeding is an art that should be learned in order to create a mutual bond between the infant and her mother. Setting a perfect latch is one of the essentials to healthy nursing. According to Brockway and Venturato (2016), constant breastfeeding up to two years provides a wide range of health benefits. To begin with, fresh breast milk has a perfect combination of fats, proteins, and vitamins which yield energy, promote growth and development as well as fight pathogens respectively. Interestingly, the natural milk provides the infant with a high Intelligence Quotient (IQ) as well as creating an emotional bond to a mother. According to the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP), nursing also helps to reduce cases of allergies and asthma infections in the future. It is also important to note that breastfed babies are less susceptible to bouts of diarrhea, respiratory illness, and ear infections as compared to their counterparts that are brought up by using infant formula.
As explained by Li, Rock, and Grummer-Strawn (2007), the stigmatization of breastfeeding starts with the worlds perception of breasts. The mammary glands have assumed a new role as sexual objects while their nurturing duty is downplayed. As a result, breastfeeding is gradually substituted by bottle feeding from one generation to the next. Despite its benefits, increased stigmatization is prevalent in the contemporary society. In its history, nursing was a common practice by women. The recent past saw it becomes too common to be carried out by members of the royalty. Most, if not all, royalty families had wet nurses tasked with the duty of breastfeeding. The trend went to Western Europe and spread across the world. As we said, infant formulas are preferred to breast milk. Today, nursing is believed to be uncultured and a low-class activity.
Breastfeeding has been the epicenter of human life cycle since evolution. Nonetheless, modern trends are shifting the attention and attitude away from the natural course and replacing it technological supplements. Based on these developments, bottle feeding and infant formulae have become social norms in North America. The American culture unknowingly promotes the stigmatization of breastfeeding at work and other places away from home. For instance, companies do not have elaborate feeding programs for lactating mothers. At home, relatives and close friends advocate for supplements as opposed to natural breast milk. The former is preferred because it eases the social roles of the mother.
Demerits of Stigmatization
Stigmatization in the modern era is causing more harm than good. Due to the stigmatization, most American women are reluctant to breastfeed in public. With this, future mothers rarely witness the act of suckling. As a result, it becomes a hurdle for a first-time mother to nurse her child due to inexperience. Since most women assume that nursing is a natural activity, the difficulties experienced prompt them to quit breastfeeding at an early age. Babies introduced into early weaning become prone to diarrhea, hearing problems, and respiratory complications just to mention a few. The stigmatization also cripples corporate projects willing to allocate programs for lactating mothers.
The stigma has not only rendered it difficult for new mothers to nurse but also created a huge cloud of controversy over breastfeeding in public. A study conducted in 2016 reveals that 47% of women feel that mothers should have the right to nurse freely in public places. According to the state law,
A mother may breastfeed her baby in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be, irrespective of whether or not the nipple of the mothers breast is covered during or incidental to the breastfeeding. (Von, 2008)
Another 26% relate the stigma to the continued disempowerment of women in their articulation of corporate and social duties. While the majority is winning, it is increasingly becoming difficult to nurse in public. With time, sucking has become uncomfortable especially for onlookers. As a result, young mothers are forced to turn to bottle feeding using the highly popularized infant formulas. The general feeling relates to female disempowerment since their duties became inconvenient thanks to public perception.
As it should be understood, the issue of suckling is both a public and legal issue. As more women learn their rights, inadequate social support appears to be the elephant in the room. As told by Jen, a New York resident. Most business premises restrict women from suckling their infants in the sight of other customers. Be it a coffee shop or salon, employees are given directives to caution lactating mothers on their policy. Tolerant places may allow such mothers breastfeeding in the back room or even in the washrooms. It is even disappointing for fellow women to restrict a mother to breastfeed. According to Alexandra Shimo, a city resident, people are not pleased with the sight of that as they eat… as she was told by other diners while attending a public function in a Toronto Country Club. This happened before a man volunteered to shield her from the congregation using a table. Soon afterward, she was escorted to outside the compound to complete nursing the baby and was later allowed to rejoin the event. Her plight is not unique as thousands of lactating mothers are shamed in public across the US. The shaming is part of the swelling stigma against nursing.
The 21st-century mothers face the toughest conditions of nursing in North America. The history and culture of Americans are accused, as discussed throughout the document. Breastfeeding is not only healthy for the baby but also helps the mother to get rid of the pregnancy weight. More importantly, suckling aids in cementing an emotional bond between the mother and the child. Despite the persisting stigmatization, breastfeeding continues to be the most preferred and endorsed feeding course for children under the age of two years. Ironically, nursing is stigmatized by the American culture.
The culture and history of Americans have placed nursing as a private activity. However, modern sensitization seeks to place it as an open and public right. It is recommendable for America to adopt a nursing culture and form as a learning platform for the presiding generation. As initiated by a group of college students from New York, social places such as Cafés, Salons, hotels, and Laundromats, are expected to post stickers indicating their tolerance to breastfeeding. The stickers would work to communicate to mothers that their business is tolerant to nursing as privacy is also guaranteed. According to Katsinde, Srinivas, and Hornby (2014), with the business premises taking the initiative, the history and culture of breastfeeding are set to be re-defined.
Brockway, M., & Venturato, L. (2016). Breastfeeding beyond infancy: a concept analysis. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 72(9), 2003-2015.
Hvatum, I., & Glavin, K. (2016). Mothers experience of not breastfeeding in a breastfeeding culture. Journal of Clinical Nursing.
Katsinde, S., Srinivas, S., & Hornby, D. (2014). The Need for Culture Sensitive Participatory Health Promotion Activities To Promote Breastfeeding. Indian Journal of Pharmacy Practice, 7(2), 3.
Kimura, L. J., McGee, A., Baird, S., Viloria, J., & Nagatsuka, M. (2015). Insights in Public Health: Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies: Awareness and Perceptions of Existing Breastfeeding and Postpartum Depression Support among Parents and Perinatal Health Care Providers in Hawaii. Hawaii Journal of Medicine & Public Health, 74(3), 101111.
Li, R., Rock, V. J., & Grummer-Strawn, L. (2007). Changes in public attitudes toward breastfeeding in the United States, 1999-2003. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 107(1), 122-127.
Linos, A., Kirch, W., & Stavros S. Niarchos Foundation. (2008). Promoting health for working women. New York, NY: Springer.
Rand, O. M. (2015). The bottle, the breast, and the state: The politics of infant feeding in the United States. Lexington Books.
Von, H. H. (2008). The constitutional law of the United States of America. Littleton, Colo: F.B. Rothman.