The idea of something being the best is usually to encourage people to choose whatever “the best” is. But what is best and right for one person may not be for another. I have found that being in the breastfeeding world and promoting and educating on the best choice for feeding our babies is one area that really does come in all sizes. Breastfeeding is not a “one size fits all” approach. Breastmilk is the best and I don’t think anyone is arguing that point. What people find hard is the judgement that comes with the decision. A mom who breastfeeds can be lumped into this “perfect mom” idea that she feels pressured to fulfill, and yet she doesn’t feel anywhere close to perfect. Then we have a mom who uses formula and she feels judged and made to feel like somehow she doesn’t love her baby as much as one who breastfeeds. But just like healthy food, organic food, and junk food all are products of situations.
What do I mean by “products of situation?” Well lets stop and think a minute about choices we have in life. Where we live, where we go to school, college, marriage, parents, children, careers…we can go on and on. When thinking about all these I mentioned, you could say that some are not choices that we can make, some are made for us by the life we are given. It is important to note though, that even what we perceive to be a choice may really not be. Of course many can argue life is what you make it. But is it really?
Back to the example of breastfeeding, did you know that in the US the average maternity leave is between 6-12 weeks? Many take less than even six weeks because of reasons beyond their control. Do you know that the rate of initial Breastfeeding; which is the first few weeks after the baby is born, is somewhere around 70% but by 3 months (12 weeks) it falls drastically to 20 to 30 percent, of course this varies by regions. Another interesting fact is that western states seem to have the highest breastfeeding rates. Such as California. Why is that? When you look at numbers that don’t lie, you see a problem. When maternity leave ends, so does breastfeeding. Does breastfeeding end because of circumstances, or by choice?
Back to the “products of situation.” If a mother is given a paid maternity leave of say 6 months, the recommended time of breastfeeding for a baby, do you think many of these women that stopped breastfeeding at the end of 6-12 weeks would breastfeed longer? It would be very interesting to see what breastfeeding rates would be if we could change just that one piece of the equation. That “situation” that comes about due to circumstance.
I wonder if my job as a Lactation Counselor would be easier if I could focus more on changing maternity laws, rather than trying to convince a mother to continue breastfeeding when she goes back to her minimum wage job where she is given very little attention except to be on her feet the entire time with only a few minutes break here and there. Where does she pump? Maybe in the bathroom? Maybe she can quickly run to pump in between cars in the drive through, or better yet, maybe she can leave her register for a few minutes to pump her milk while you wait.
Circumstances make a difference. Money and time make a difference. Some people are given a “multiple choice” of answers to their life challenges. And many times none of the choices are answers that we want to make. But guess what, we have to choose one. So what is the best choice is not always the right choice, but the right choice is always the best choice.