A new documentary exams why America has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world.
Chantal Molnar, producer of the documentary “The Milky Way,” said it all starts when baby is taken away from the mother at birth. She laid out the case for how American culture sets up mothers to fail at breastfeeding: the separation between mothers and babies, the infant formula marketing, and the lack of paid maternity leave.
“So many hospitals take the baby away from the mom to get weighed, to get washed, to have the medicines put in,” Molnar said. “It interrupts the feeding sequence that’s triggered in the baby when the baby is plopped on the mom’s belly, it interrupts a natural progression of physiological mechanisms that automatically get that baby to latch on.”
Molnar is a former nurse and a lactation consultant in Southern California and has seen this practice played out for many years. “I’ve seen the same problem over and over again, and I began to see there is really a problem in America.” She said the practice is the start of setting up mom and baby for failure.
“I still don’t quite get the logic behind why they started doing that, doctors in hospitals felt that they knew how better to care for babies than moms and so they started separating them and putting them into nurseries. Then enter the formula companies that give money for those hospitals to build hospitals where they separate moms and babies,” Molnar said.
However, more hospitals are now promoting “mom and baby rooms” where there is no separation.
Molnar said that she traveled to Germany there, even in the case of c-section, the baby is never taken away from the mother. She thought that’s a good example for America to follow.
Also, while putting her documentary together, Molnar found that formula companies donate architectural plans to hospitals that separate mom and baby.
“These formula companies are active helping hospitals create a need for their products,” she said.
Molnar said that while some states have more progressive maternity centers, California, where she lives, had to pass a law requiring hospitals to be more baby-friendly. She said she would like to see hospitals stop handing out free formula samples to expecting and new mothers.
Meanwhile, America is one of the only four countries in the world that does not have government-mandated paid maternity leave, and Molnar said that’s also one of many reasons why America has a low breastfeeding rate.
In Sweden, mothers get 18 months of paid maternity leave. Fathers get two months of paternity leave. It’s also frowned upon to take anything less in that country. And, Sweden has the lowest infant mortality rate and the highest breastfeeding rate in Europe.
U.K. starts with a high breastfeeding rate at birth, but it drops drastically in the second month, and by six months it’s down to 14 percent.
Molar said the breastfeeding failure starts with the separation of mom and baby, continues with inadequate breastfeeding support at hospital and in the country’s mother-to-mother culture, and then continues when mothers go back to work and can’t find the time or support to pump.
“I feel that it isn’t all on the women,I feel that I want to see a shift in culture so that we support keeping mothers and babies together, we want to honor the mother and make sure that wee all understand as a culture that mothers ca be trusted.” said Molnar.
“Women should trust themselves. They should trust their body, and trust their babies.”
TO-WEN TSENG 曾多聞