Most moms fully recognize the benefits of breast-feeding. Breast milk is sterile, easy for babies to digest and provides antibodies that help protect babies from illness and developing allergies. It is also an important means for mother to bond with child.
Despite all of the physical and emotional benefits, only a third of 6-month-old babies are breast-fed. By their first birthday, only 16 percent are breast-feeding.
There are myriad reasons why mothers stop nursing their babies. Many are personal choices. But some quit because society does not support breast-feeding, Brigham Young University researchers say. That's unfortunate.
It is difficult to find a place to breast-feed if you are in public. Many places of work do not accommodate breast-feeding employees, researchers said. Some women never breast-feed their babies because they have not been instructed how to do it or they decide not to do it after they are offered free samples of infant formula while in the hospital.
It is a profound challenge to breast-feed an infant for a year, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Yet, it is clearly a healthier choice for infants. Seemingly, a state that values children and their well-being could be more amenable to the needs of nursing mothers.
However, there have been a few instances in Utah in recent years that suggest some people are uncomfortable at the sight of a nursing infant. One employee of a fast-food restaurant went so far as to tell a nursing mother to move from the dining area to a restroom or to further cover herself as she nursed her child. The woman claimed she was told to go to the bathroom or leave the restaurant.
This was an unfortunate incident, but Utah law essentially says women have a right to breast-feed in any location. Common sense dictates that nursing mothers should not go out of their way to make others in public settings feel uncomfortable.
We should all want what's best for children. Hopefully, this new research will shed light on impediments to breast-feeding to age 1 and foster discussion as to what can be done to encourage mothers to breast-feed their babies longer.