I learned about Babes for Breastfeeding (BfB) in my latest eagerly awaited Fit Pregnancy magazine. The basic premise of the non-profit is to bring together "celebrities, corporations, foundations, fashion and advertising to create a cultural acceptance and celebration of breastfeeding" to help new moms feel less guilty and embarrassed about breastfeeding. They also offer advice about how to be successful, prepared, and informed.
All of this sounds great, but in spite of myself, I became enraged when reading Kim Acosta's In the Spotlight article about the organization in Fit Pregnancy. Acosta says (citing the co-founder of BfB Bettina Forbes) "Lack of visible, positive role models and conflicting advice are two reasons many women don't success at breastfeeding." This comes right after the accusation that only 11% of women who gave birth in 2004 succeeded in breastfeeding exclusively until their infants were 6 months of age. "Women don't need more pressure and guilt," says co-founder of BfB Danielle Rigg, "they need to see people like themselves who incorporate nursing into their lives."
In my opinion, the issues surrounding overall breastfeeding success have much less to do with the lack of glamorous breastfeeding role models than they do with socio-economic factors, like whether or not the mother has to return to work full-time after her maternity leave. Or for that matter, whether she gets a maternity leave at all (there's still no nationally-mandated paid maternity leave in the U.S.). Perhaps she has to work two jobs. In cases like those, how can a mother exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months of her baby's life?
Feminism is about having the power to choose. It is widely known that babies benefit from breastfeeding, but its just not an option for some families. I resent the guilt and pressure moms feel to breastfeed. I have seen many of my own friends relentlessly berate themselves because they cannot sustain breastfeeding.
Here's an idea: organizations like BfB should fight for longer, mandatory paid maternity leaves rather than spending their time recruiting celebrity nursers.