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Breastfeeding up to 2 years and beyond, new guidelines some applaud, others say adds to mom's stress

Breastfeeding is a huge time commitment. Forbes found women spend an average of 1,800 hours a year breastfeeding.
Milwaukee mother and baby
Posted at 5:01 PM, Aug 12, 2022

MILWAUKEE — The American Academic of Pediatricsupdated its guidelines on breastfeeding for the first time in years. It now aligns with the World Health Organization which recommends "a child is breastfed up to the age of 2 or longer."

That move has been applauded by some, while others say it added stress to new moms. We are going 360 to look at all sides of this issue. We will talk to medical experts who see the new guidelines as a good goal, an advocacy group for mother's mental health with concerns about the stress to new moms and mothers of babies with differing opinions. That's where we begin.

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Amber Schaefer holds her 14-month-old daughter who she is currently breastfeeding.

"The number one question I get is, 'How long are you going to breastfeed until?’” said Amber Schaefer, a mother from Lake Geneva currently breastfeeding a 14-month-old. “I don't have a time limit for breastfeeding. It just whenever the journey is going to end.”

Kaneisha Robinson, a Milwaukee mom, is not sure if she will be able to breastfeed her baby until he is two-years-old but she wants to try. She points to the stigma woman face for breastfeeding past a certain age.

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Kaneisha Robinson prepares to breastfeed her 4-month-old son outside her home in Milwaukee.

"I was very excited because you have everybody who judges very badly saying, 'You know you are only supposed to do it for six months or you aren’t even supposed to do that, that's what they made formula for.’ When they said two-years, I said, ‘Finally a load off our shoulders for those who do breastfeed,’” said Robinson.

Casey White, a mother from Wauwatosa, was upset with these new guidelines. She says she struggled breastfeeding while working full time with her first baby and is concerned about how long she will be able to do it with her second child.

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Casey White gives a thumbs up to her son who she struggled to breastfeed while she was working full time.

"When the American Academy of Pediatrics tells you two years is the gold standard you should reach, that's what a 'good mom' does and you can't do it or you are desperately trying to and it’s not working for you and your family that's truly depressing, anxiety provoking,” said White.

Breastfeeding is a huge time commitment. Forbes found women spend an average of 1,800 hours a year breastfeeding. That's comparable to a full-time job, with three weeks of paid vacation, where you would work 1,960 hours a year. Sarah Bloomquist, the co-founder of the Moms Mental Health Initiativein Milwaukee says the issue with these guidelines is they leave behind families facing their own struggles.

"Close to three out of four babies require formula in their first six months of life. We have foster babies who aren't necessarily breastfed. We have children who have other needs and can't breastfeed. And lots of moms whose breastmilk isn't coming in or it isn't working. We need to recognize that it is not that easy,” said Bloomquist.

She points out that people's socioeconomic status can also dictate if they can breastfeed. Bloomquist says people who work jobs without places to breastfeed, don't get long enough breaks or work multiple jobs can't pump milk for their babies while they are away.

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A 2012 study in the American Sociological Review showed women who breastfeed or pumped for at least six months after returning to work saw, "more severe and more prolonged earnings losses' versus those who either breastfeed for a shorter time or only fed formula.

"We need to hear that it's okay to have options, it's okay to choose what works for you. Often it is not realistic based on supports we have and sometimes it just isn't right,” said Bloomquist.

Support is what Dalvery Blackwell, executive director of the African American Breastfeeding Network says people need to make sure they can achieve these guidelines.

"We need to have policies and system changes in place so that families who are at risk of not breastfeeding have the systems in place to at least initiate breastfeeding. We know that initiation of breastfeeding in the African American communities has lagged behind in in comparison to white families,” said Blackwell.
She sees the guidelines as a goal to work towards.

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Sarah Bloomquist, co-founder of the Mom's Mental Health Initiative in Milwaukee.

“Is it too unrealistic of a goal? It is a challenge, but I think eventually we can get there,” said Blackwell. “I'm excited about the guidelines because I think babies need to be breast for as long as possible and as long and mother and baby agree."

Former Wisconsin chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics board member Dr. Margaret Hennessy says these guidelines now align our country with the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

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Dalvery Blackwell, executive director of the African American Breastfeeding Network in Milwaukee.

"There's a lot of history to this, you know, if you look at the world, breastfeeding is commonly done past the first year life in many, many cultures,” said Hennessy.

She sees these as recommendations and a call to action to the community.

"What was really kind of the heart of the guidelines, when I look through them myself was not so much saying moms you have to do this, it was more saying hey we need to support moms. We need medical people to support moms, we need employers to support moms who choose to do this,” said Hennessy.

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Former Wisconsin chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics board member Dr. Margaret Hennessy is a pediatrician in Racine.

She says families can use these guidelines as a way to talk to their pediatrician about breastfeeding and make the best choice for their child.

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