Saturday, June 16, 2007

Breastfeeding in Public: September 1943

If you visit my blog often enough, you know how much I love to search the Library of Congress digital photo collections. I spend tons of time poring through batches and batches of collections looking for historical breastfeeding pictures, sometimes until my eyes are weary and I have given up for the day . But look what I stumbled upon this morning.

I'd like to introduce you to a mother who is traveling from Louisville, Kentucky to Memphis, Tennessee on a Greyhound bus. Here, she is waiting in the Chattanooga bus terminal and breastfeeding in public in September 1943.

This is a great picture, right? Well, it made me ask a very important question: What if this mother is in a corner of the terminal where there are women around, but no men? And then I found this photo. Notice the men in the picture on the far left and the far right.

It's no wonder these pictures were taken by a woman, Esther Bubley, a pioneer in female photojournalism, who chronicled people's daily lives for the Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Collection (FSA-OWI).

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

WIC, physicians, black mothers and breastfeeding: an uncommon connection

Many of you may recall a post I wrote in late May entitled Ties That Bind: WIC and the Big Three. One mom, Ebony, posted a comment that left me itching for an answer. The following is Ebony's experience with WIC.

All I could think while reading this post and the comments was, "Wow." I have used WIC for 3 out of 5 of my pregnancies and I have never been pushed to bottle feed or breast feed. I was given information on both and told that "breast is best", but then they stepped back and let me make my own decision. The walls in the office are covered with pro-breast material, including classes, etc. Instead of formula coupons, I received coupons for milk, carrots, etc. When it proved that I could not breast feed my 3 year old, they did everything they could to help me before I stopped, got me a free breast pump, individual assistance from a nurse, everything to help me continue nursing. I'm surprised by others experiences. Am I just lucky to have a good office where I'm at, is my experience the norm or an exception?

What do you think? Do you think Ebony's experience was the norm or an exception? I hoped it was the norm until I read up on infant feeding advice given by WIC counselors.

According to A Closer Look at Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Breastfeeding: Commentary on Breastfeeding Advice Given to African American and White Women by Physicians and WIC Counselors published in the July-August 2003 issue of Public Health Reports black women were "less likely to recall receiving breastfeeding advice from clinicians and WIC counselors than white women." In fact, black women were reported to receive more bottle feeding advice from WIC counselors. And, in another study, Woman, Physicians, and Breastfeeding Advice: A Regional Analysis, poor women were found to receive less accurate breastfeeding advice from their physicians compared to higher educated women. Furthermore, in a USDA study, only 39% of WIC mothers reported receiving breastfeeding advice from their doctors. With percentages and trends such as this I cannot help but believe they help contribute to the continued low breastfeeding numbers among black women.

When I was an expecting mother I never ran into any problems related to how I would feed my baby girls. My doctors knew from the jump that I was going to breastfeed, so there was no further discussion about the matter either time.

What infant feeding advice did you get? Whether you're white, brown, or tan, how did you come to your decision to breastfeed, or not to breastfeed? Did your doctor tell you about the full benefits of breastfeeding?
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