Breastfeeding, Co-Sleeping, And Social Support

A not-for-profit organization called Childbirth Connection issued a report in 2008 detailing the results of two surveys called, New Mothers Speak Out, National Survey Results Highlight Women's Postpartum Experiences. The focus of this report is the experiences of pregnant women plus a follow-up on these same women a year and a half after their deliveries. The report tells us how well pregnant and postpartum women are faring in the United States and suggests ways and means of improvement.

Stymied Efforts

According to the report, while 61% of the mothers had wanted to breastfeed only, only 51% were still exclusively breastfeeding by the end of the first week after delivery. The women had been stymied in their breastfeeding efforts by hospitals pushing water, formula supplements, and samples or other offers.

Of those moms still breastfeeding their babies at one week and who had ceased nursing by the time they were surveyed, 46% said they had breastfed their babies for as long as they had wished.

An interesting aspect of the report relates to co-sleeping, or infants who sleep with their parents in the same bed. It seems there were major disparities depending on race and ethnicity. The overall figures showed that 18% of all mothers always had their babies sleep alongside of them, while another 10% often did so during the first half year after the birth. But among African American, non-Hispanic moms, over a third (36%) said their babies always slept with them, as compared to 30% of the Hispanic mothers and 12% of the white, non-Hispanic moms.

Striking Discovery

Another striking discovery was the lack of social support that postpartum women receive from their husbands, partners, and others. It seems that having a partner or spouse didn't guarantee that women would get the support they needed. Most of those surveyed, 73%, said that they were the ones providing most of the childcare, as opposed to their partners or husbands. Even where moms were full-time employees, 49% still took on most of the childcare while only 3% of partners and husbands were responsible for most of the childcare. But 48% of the mothers reported that the childcare burden was shared in equal parts among mothers and partners or husbands.

A too-large percentage of the respondents, 20% of those women who had a partner or a husband, said that their significant others gave them affection, enjoyment, emotional or practical support either not at all, or only for short bursts.

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