New Study Reveals Global Breastfeeding Hurdles

Breastfeeding isn't easy no matter where you live—but a new study sheds some light on how women across the globe are challenged by the act.
Dmytro Mykhailov/Shutterstock

Sometimes it seems like there's a new story about a mother who is shamed for breastfeeding every single day. The U.S. still has a long way to go where supporting breastfeeding moms is concerned—but if recent findings are any indication, we are, in ways, further along than other countries.

A new study reveals the realities of what breastfeeding moms across the globe really face, just in time for World Breastfeeding Week. The team at Lansinoh, a global breastfeeding products brand, surveyed 2,000 U.S. women and nearly 13,000 moms who live overseas to learn more about the nature of breastfeeding—the fears, attitudes and specific hurdles that exist where the act is concerned. the survey included women from Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Mexico, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

According to their findings, breastfeeding is a universal experience in many ways: 89 percent of women both in the U.S. and overseas think breastfeeding is the best feeding method for their babies, and moms across the board expressed similar hardships and frustrations. But the differences are interesting as well: Sadly, all countries surveyed showed some evidence of breastfeeding discrimination—35 percent of the Brazilian women surveyed have been openly criticized for breastfeeding in public, a rate that dropped to 20.1 percent among the U.S. women surveyed. Only 6.6. percent of the Chinese women surveyed reported this sort of experience, but it's also worth noting that the fear of being stigmatized kept 39 percent of the Chinese moms surveyed from nursing in public. 

U.S. moms called out retail spaces as some of the toughest places to breastfeed ("while shopping" beat out "while traveling" and "at work" as the toughest time for U.S. women to nurse), and moms in the U.K. and Germany appeared to agree. On the other hand, moms in China, Canada, France, Turkey and Mexico felt more challenged when trying to feed while traveling. Only Brazilian women said work was the hardest place to nurse.

Then there was the issue of mom guilt, which—and we can't say we're surprised—appeared to affect women across the world. A whopping 94.2 percent of Brazilian moms surveyed reported that they'd feel guilty if they didn't breastfeed, while German moms were on the lower end, with 41 percent of moms reporting this same sentiment. Moms in the U.S. wound up in the middle of the pack, with 68.7 percent saying this would cause guilt.

But ultimately, what breastfeeding moms everywhere need is support. In fact, moms everywhere admitted they may give up breastfeeding entirely without it—just 27.3 percent of U.S. women reported this, which was on the low end (45.6 percent of French women said a lack of support may lead them to stop breastfeeding), but this idea is important. It's about time the world stepped out for breastfeeding moms. No matter where they live, they face some seriously significant challenges—and that's not right.

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"More than ever, moms are embracing breastfeeding because of the health benefits for baby. While it can be a rewarding way to bond with and nourish baby, it does not always come easily. But with the right preparation, education, and support moms are far more likely to achieve their breastfeeding goals," Gina Cicatelli Ciagne, certified lactation counselor (CLC), and Lansinoh's Vice President of Integrated Marketing and Clinical Communications, said in an emailed release. "Lansinoh encourages new and expecting moms to seek the support they need and to support one another so every mom has a fulfilling breastfeeding experience." 

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