Breastfeeding : how can the drop rate be improved?

Breastfeeding statistics have recently been made public in the suburb region of Montreal, in Canada. Breastfeeding agencies were very pleased with the overall rate of a whooping 77% nursing rate at birth. The bad news is that the rate of women still breastfeeding their babies after 6 months was a disappointing 3%.

How can this tremendous drop be explained? What can we do to encourage and support breastfeeding after the first months of life? These questions and many more are being considered by organisms promoting breastfeeding.

The first explanation a local medical doctor has proposed is the way the rate of breastfeeding at birth is calculated. The simple question asked to the woman in labor is: do you want to breastfeed your baby? A yes, is then marked and accounted for as a woman breastfeeding her newborn baby.

This doctor says she has seen so many women giving-up on breastfeeding after sometimes only one five minutes try, that the 77% rate is highly inflated by the data collection system. Most women who stop nursing their babies will do so in the first week after birth. A repeat follow-up call would show a drastic drop in the overall breastfeeding rate after the first week.

How can we explain that so many women give-up on breastfeeding after only one week of trying?

The first answer may be that we need a better support fro breastfeeding mothers and more clinics where mothers can be re-assured and supported in their effort to breastfeed. Another very important step would be to have tangible supports for women who are nursing. Education of partners on how they can relieve their nursing wife would be greatly helpful.

Another answer forwarded by the family doctor who has delivered over 2500 babies in her career is that some women will answer that they want to breastfeed from the pressure applied by society. It is now “in fashion” to breastfeed and a new mother might fear to be judged if she does not breastfeed her baby. She then nurses but is tempted to give-up at the slightest set back.

“I have seen women giving-up on breastfeeding after a five minute tryout” says the doctor. “To me, it seamed clear that this mother felt more like she had to breastfeed her baby more than she wanted”, she concludes.

In answer to the question of how we can improve the drop rate of breastfeeding, the answers are multiple. Strong supporting groups and a loving spouse are the two most important factors. Making private areas readily available for nursing mothers are a must. Proper data collection is also needed to get a more realistic picture of the breastfeeding rate in North America.

A one week follow-up call or better yet visit is mandatory to get the more accurate rate of mothers who are still breastfeeding and helping the ones who need support.

“A stronger belief of the virtues of breast milk is also a must” continues this doctor who does medical mission in third world countries. “In such countries like Honduras and Bolivia where most citizens are poor, breastfeeding rates are above 95% until the baby is well over one year old. They have no other option than breastfeed and they strongly believe breast milk is the best food for their growing babies…and they are right!” concludes Dr Fiset with a smile.