Beyoncé recently attracted a lot of media attention when she was spotted breastfeeding her baby in public while she ate dinner in New York City restaurant. Breastfeeding experts and advocates seem to agree that it is a good thing when celebrities or other public persons model behavior that has a baby’s best interests at heart.
But some have pointed out the fact that Beyoncé probably did not intend to become a breastfeeding advocate. Well, maybe she didn’t, but I’m happy to tell mothers that are reluctant about breastfeeding in public that Beyoncé does it.
Let’s face it, celebrities set the standards for many things, sometimes not nearly as positive as breastfeeding. They often lead the way in cultural and social changes, and greater awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding is exactly what the United States needs.
Despite the fact that we know breastfeeding is the absolute best method for human infant feeding, the rate at which U.S. mothers breastfeed, especially exclusively, is disheartening.
The most recent U.S. breastfeeding statistics from 2006 reveal that only 74% of infants are ever breastfed, that only 43.5% are still being breastfed at age 6 months, and this number drops to approximately 23% at age 12 months. The statistics are even worse for infants who are exclusively breastfed. At age 3 months only about 34% of U.S. infants are exclusively breastfeed, and at age 6 months, just 14%.
This means that only three out of every 20 babies will reach his or her 6-month birthday without having received formula. The only way to help more moms and babies reap the benefits of breastfeeding is to make it a part of everyday life and not something that must be hidden. The worry about when, where and what is going on when a baby decides he or she is hungry is more stress than many busy moms are able to handle.
Organizations such as Best for Babes are working to change the culture in a positive way for women who want to breastfeed. They are partnering with celebrity moms who want to be champions for breastfeeding, like actresses Jenna Elfman and Kelly Preston, and athlete Laila Ali to promote breastfeeding as the preferred infant feeding method.
Julee B. Waldrop, DNP, FNP, PNP, is the Director of the MSN-DNP Program and an associate professor at the University of Central Florida. She provides health care to children at a local community health center.
2. HealthyPeople 2020 Topics and Objectives. “MICH-21. Increase the proportion of infants who are breastfed.” Available online at: healthypeople.gov.