CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Breastfeeding support groups and lactation consultants in the Carolinas are calling for more protections for parents who choose to breastfeed.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently updated its guidance and is now recommending support for parents who choose to breastfeed their infant to age 2 and beyond. This is up from the previous recommendation of one year or more.
"This really brings the AAP and the U.S. in line with the rest of the worldwide recommendations,” Laura Corsig, a board-certified lactation consultant and manager of lactation services at Novant Health, said.
However, Corsig said there are issues in helping families reach this goal, whether it's a lack of support, a stigma surrounding breastfeeding, or workplace barriers.
"When families are forced by economics to go back to work at six weeks or even at 12 weeks, it becomes very challenging to be able to continue to provide breastmilk for their, for their baby,” Corsig said.
Current federal law requires large-scale employers to provide break times for nursing mothers to express breast milk but only for one year after the child's birth.
"It's going to be interesting to see what the U.S. legislation does with supporting workplace accommodations for pumping up to two years,” Corsig added.
La Leche League of South Charlotte is a local group that’s part of La Leche League International. It provides encouragement and a community for breastfeeding mothers and parents.
"Getting the support and then sticking with it, usually once someone makes it through six weeks, they are able to continue [breastfeeding] and things feel easier,” Erin Pushman, a leader of La Leche League of South Charlotte, said.
Pushman said she believes the U.S. falls behind other countries when it comes to paid maternity leave, and she would like to see more done to help provide mothers more time and support to feed their baby directly following birth and in the months and years that follow.
"I would like to see breastfeeding and pumping rights extended indefinitely,” Pushman said.
As a part of the AAP’s new guidance, it recommends support from medical care providers, as well as protections against workplace barriers, for mothers who choose to breastfeed beyond the first year.
The AAP also recommends policies that protect breastfeeding, including universal paid maternity leave; the right of a woman to breastfeed in public; insurance coverage for lactation supports and breast pumps; on-site child care; universal workplace break time with a clean, private location for expressing milk; the right to feed expressed milk; and the right to breastfeed in child care centers and lactation rooms in schools.