Here is what supermodel and new mom Gisele Bündchen said to Harper’s Bazaar UK on August 2, 2010: “Some people here [in the U.S.] think they don’t have to breastfeed, and I think ‘Are you going to give chemical food to your child when they are so little?'” adding “I think there should be a worldwide law, in my opinion, that mothers should breastfeed their babies for six months.”
Here is the letter I am sending to Gisele:
Congratulations on your new baby boy Benjamin! I heard you had a home birth. And we all know you have chosen to breastfeed. Well good for you Gisele. Nice nutritional choice.
Let me cut to the chase. I want to comment on your quote in Bazaar. As a lactation consultant and pediatric registered dietitian I have worked with hundreds of new mothers all over this country and while you may think that many American mothers choose not to breastfeed, I want to bring up a point that you may not know; we have lousy lactation support. There are many reasons why, but here are a few to bring you up to speed:
1.) Not all women have access to lactation services and women need help. When help is not available, cracking open a can of formula is easier.
2.) There is a lack of emotional support from family and friends. A new mother is sure to give up sooner or not try breastfeeding at all if her significant other, mother and/or friends do not support her efforts to provide milk for the baby.
3.) Breastfed infants gain weight differently than formula fed infants and pediatricians and nurses with little training in breastfeeding management will jump the gun and push formula usage for their opinion of optimal weight gain.
4.) While not openly discussed in the medical community as much as it needs to be, I have heard countless stories from mothers that their encounters with lactation consultants were awful. Lactation consultants should possess a gentle, supportive and loving approach when working with anxious, hormonal mothers. For some reason, many (not all!!) lactation consultants do not possess these attributes. This has to change. There is no excuse.
The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative USA (BFHI USA) is an attempt to promote, protect and support breastfeeding with ten steps for hospitals as outlined by UNICEF and WHO.
If we can educate and support American mothers and families on the importance of breastfeeding from the birth of the baby while they are in the hospital and address the issues outlined above, breastfeeding rates will rise.
Would you like to help the cause? Let me know. I have ideas.
All the best,
Melanie R. Silverman MS, RD, IBCLC