On a weekly basis I see moms who come in to clinic with their 6-9 month-old babies saying ‘I would like to ween my baby off the breast.’ When I simply ask why they wish to ween, greater than 90% of the time the answer is ‘because I’m going back to work’. My next question: ‘do you want to continue breastfeeding?’ Virtually all answer yes (?!). I find it quite striking how the overture to these clinical encounters directly contradict the mothers’ true wishes.

When I suggest to these moms that it is a reasonable option to work full time and breastfeed their babes mornings, evenings, and weekends, for many it is as if an enormous load was lifted off their shoulders.

What I find troubling is that my suggestion seems, at least to me (granted I’m a man who never breastfed), like such an intuitive and logical next step in the transition from ‘home with babe’ to ‘back at work’.  Nonetheless, ‘back to work’ seems to equate with ‘end of breastfeeding’ for so many families.  I guess this speaks to how powerful societal norms. pressures, and expectations can be for these moms.

There’s still a lot of work ahead of us if we are to meaningfully (i.e. successfully) support breastfeeding … and the first few months of baby’s life is not the only stage that requires our support.