Louisiana Needs More Than Just ‘Breastfeeding Week’ to Encourage Mothers

COMMENTARY | For all of you Louisiana women who are currently expecting and undecided on whether or not you’re going to breastfeed your new baby, then the week of Aug. 1-7, which has been declared “Breastfeeding Week” by Gov. Bobby Jindal, can help you in deciding which option is best for you and your baby. And many may be asking why Louisiana has declared a week in the month of August “Breastfeeding Week,” and the reason is simple: Louisiana has the third lowest rate in the country when it comes to mothers who breastfeed and this is a statistic that needs to change.

Many of the new initiatives that the Department of Health in the state has been implementing, such as the GIFT program which certifies certain hospitals as being adequately informed on the benefits of breastfeeding in order to encourage mothers to breastfeed, are not good enough in order to encourage this beneficial practice for all mothers.

As a first-time mother who was very pro-breastfeeding when I was pregnant with our first son, and when I gave birth to him, in a Louisiana hospital, I was quickly discouraged by the lack of support that I was given.

When I attended the nursing class shortly before giving birth, I was only told how difficult it was going to be to get the baby to latch on right and how expensive an electric breast pump would be, which they made it seem like was my only option to ever get any time away if I wanted to breastfeed.

What they didn’t tell me was how beneficial it would be to building up our son’s immune system, and how much more nutrients he would be getting by breastfeeding. They also failed to mention the great bonding experience that breastfeeding can be for mothers. It seemed like in this Louisiana hospital, the breastfeeding class was only meant to discourage new mothers from the practice.

And when I gave birth, there was only one breastfeeding expert in the hospital, who was either not in the hospital at the times that I needed her, or she was just too busy with other mothers who needed help. So after two days of asking and failing to get her help, I was finally given it, and by that point I was almost ready to give up on breastfeeding. But after some practice, I continued to nurse my son, but breastfeeding in Louisiana was not made easy by the lack of accommodations.

When my family and I would go out to the mall, there were no breastfeeding rooms or places in the bathrooms to breastfeed, and the public didn’t make it easy, even while using a cover to breastfeed anywhere but the car. It was impossible to feel comfortable breastfeeding in an area where there was no support for mothers who breastfeed, like the special rooms and areas in bathrooms that have been set aside for nursing mothers in other states across the nation.

While this Louisiana “Breastfeeding Week” and the GIFT program is a good start in getting mothers to start nursing, all of these other things need to be changed in the state in order to get more women breastfeeding.

Lauren Finnegan graduated from Hawaii Pacific University with a bachelor’s degree in political science and has an insider’s perspective on the military because of her role as a military wife who has lived around the country.