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5 times breastfeeding moms got the support they deserved

Posted April 25

Your decision on how long to breastfeed comes down to two essential aspects of your life: your social support network and your finances.

A new study out of Germany found that women who have less educational and financial opportunities are less likely to engage in breastfeeding after four to six months, according to Reuters. That’s because less educated women tend to face barriers that limit their ability to breastfeed their children.

"Lower educated women were less likely to overcome these barriers as easily as those with higher education," the study’s co-author, Dr. Dietrich Rothenbacher of Ulm University in Germany, told Reuters.

To find this, researchers followed two groups of breastfeeding moms in Germany for about 10 years and found that mostly educated women were more likely to continue breastfeeding for four to six months.

The two groups included a maternity ward of 989 women who gave birth between 2000 and 2001 and another group of 856 women who gave birth in 2012 and 2013, Reuters reported. Those in the later group were 21 and 29 percent less likely to stop breastfeeding around four months and six months, respectively.

But the study also found that women who had less than 12 years of education didn’t make many breastfeeding gains over time. In fact, women who had less education were only 8 percent less likely to stop breastfeeding after four months, compared to the 24 percent of educated women who did the same.

This likely appears different in the United States, where many women lack access to paid parental leave and don’t have the financial backing to support their breastfeeding habits.

"Continuing to breastfeed an infant is challenging when there is a lack of support — particularly for women with lower levels of education and income who may need to return to work as soon as possible after giving birth in order to financially support their family," Jennifer Pitonyak, a researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle, told Reuters.

Researchers also said that women need support systems when breastfeeding, since there are some social issues and pressures that go along with it.

But support is hard to come by in the United States. Many women are criticized and condemned for their breastfeeding habits in the United States, like this mother who posted a photo of herself breastfeeding while wearing her late husband’s fireman jacket.

There’s also been a wider debate across the U.S. about whether or not women should breastfeed in public. This is something that’s been going on for at least a decade.

But there have been a number of organizations and companies that have fought to support breastfeeding moms. Here’s a look at five scenarios where companies, businesses and organizations have fought for breastfeeding moms in effective ways.

1. Come in for a free cup

As I wrote about in April, a local cafe in Australia has worked to serve as a place of refuge for breastfeeding moms by offering free cups of tea for making a pit stop there.

The cafe’s owner said she identified with breastfeeding moms and wanted them to have a safe space where their public breastfeeding wouldn’t be judged and where they could feel welcomed.

"I'm a young mum myself, and I had just had my first child and thought that it's a good thing to do," the owner Natala Bain told Mashable. "It's really to make to breastfeeding mums feel welcome."

2. The best policy out there

In 2011, Target found itself under scrutiny after a Houston mother was asked to leave the store because she was breastfeeding her daughter in the women’s clothing department, according to CBS. This led to a nationwide “nurse-in” event, where mothers in 100 stores across 35 states sat down inside Target with their babies.

But now, breastfeeding moms can’t get enough of Target. According to Today, Target changed its policy in 2015 to allow anyone to breastfeed in any area of their store, including fitting rooms when people are waiting outside.

"We want all of our guests to feel comfortable shopping with us," Target told Today. "Our breastfeeding policy, which applies to all stores, is just one of the ways in which we support our guests."

3. Even on the go

You’d think a computer company would be focused more on building computer hardware. But it seems IBM has also taken a stance for helping breastfeeding moms by starting a program that provides female employees with the tools to send milk home when they are traveling for business, according to Fortune.

The new program included an app that lets women enter where they’re traveling and what temperature the milk should be.

4. You can change your mind

A local restaurant in Houston changed its breastfeeding policy after some controversy. As CW39 reported, the restaurant, El Patio, initially asked a breastfeeding mom to leave. But after investigating the incident, the restaurant changed its mind — mostly because the person who asked the mom to leave was a customer and not an employee.

After allowing the mom to return, the restaurant also decided to donate 20 percent of its sales on one day in 2015 to the Mothers’ Milk Bank, a nonprofit that helps provide milk to infants and struggling mothers.

5. Working on your ads

In a twist, the Equinox gym, known for its highly sexualized commercials and ads, decided to post one about three months ago that supported breastfeeding moms, according to ATTN.

The ad includes a 31-year-old woman breastfeeding a pair of twins. While it was unclear to some what the advertisement had to do with a gym, the advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy New York said it was a part of the #CommitToSomething campaign, which aimed to highlight socially relevant issues.

"It is the responsibility of advertising to communicate modern times and social issues," fashion photographer Steven Klein, who took photos for the project, said in a statement. "This campaign addresses today's issues and social commentaries, which is a powerful approach instead of portraying people as superficial objects with no narrative."

Herb Scribner is a writer for Deseret Digital Media.

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