When you have a baby, you have a lot of serious decisions to make. After you choose names and colleges, you have to figure out sleeping arrangements, work and childcare arrangements, and whether you will breastfeed or formula feed. Breastfeeding is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, though it’s important to remember that formula is completely safe if you can’t or don’t want to breastfeed your baby. If you do make the decision to breastfeed you will need to read up on your rights before you leave the hospital so you can start planning for the logistics.
According to medical guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics, “American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reaffirms its recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months of a baby’s life, followed by breastfeeding in combination with the introduction of complementary foods until at least 12 months of age, and continuation of breastfeeding for as long as mutually desired by mother and baby.” Benefits include:
- Protection from allergies, asthma, respiratory illness, gastrointestinal illness, and more
- Significant reduction in SIDS
- Significant reduction in adolescent obesity
Making a decision to breastfeed may seem daunting, but there are plenty of support groups out there to help you along the way. Getting help can be important because there is a definite learning curve. But once you learn the basics there are still some more things you will need to learn, such as your rights when breastfeeding in public and your rights when breastfeeding or pumping in the workplace.
All but one state in the United States has laws on the books protecting breastfeeding mothers’ rights to feed their babies in any public or private location. Many states have taken the extra steps of exempting breastfeeding from public indecency laws and working toward raising awareness of breastfeeding and breastfeeding rights. Federal law protects a breastfeeding mother’s right to pump at work, and the Affordable Care Act bolstered these rights by mandating that companies with 50 or more employees provide a space and the time for breastfeeding mothers to pump milk for up to 1 year after the birth of their babies. Employers must also provide doors that lock, electricity, and refrigeration for pumping mothers.
Despite these legal protections, many mothers find it difficult to breastfeed past the six month mark, if at all. The national average for mothers who breastfeed to the six month mark is 51.8% overall, and there are some pretty wide variations from state to state. Mississippi has the lowest rates of breastfeeding to six months in the nation, clocking in at a measly 24%, while Utah is on the other end of the spectrum at 70%. The United States overall has the lowest rates of breastfeeding in developed countries, which only adds to our excess medical costs.
If you plan to breastfeed your baby, knowing your rights ahead of time can help prevent you from stopping unnecessarily when faced with challenges. There are plenty of people out there who don’t know your rights, and it’s going to be up to you to advocate for yourself and your baby while public awareness is still being brought up to speed.
Learn more about your rights as a breastfeeding mother from this infographic!