Commentary: Breastfeeding Gets Personal For Public Health Advocate

Baltimore Health Commissioner Leana Wen had long worked to encourage breastfeeding. When she became a mother, she experienced just how challenging it could be.
"I also learned that designated nursing spaces didn't exist until Nancy Pelosi became Speaker of the House in 2007. This story often repeats itself: multiple organizations have changed their breastfeeding policies in recent years, but only when women came into leadership roles." Source: Ayumi Takahashi for NPR

When my son, Eli, was born a year ago, it was a given that I would breastfeed him.

During medical school, I learned that breastfeeding bolsters a baby's immune system, reduces infant mortality and improves the mother's long-term health. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months and continued breastfeeding for a year, and I was committed to making it work.

But as a first-time mom, I had no idea how hard it would be.

In the first few days after his birth, my son had difficulty latching to he nearly ended up back in the hospital. After two weeks, my nipples were so cracked and inflamed that I cried every time I attempted to breastfeed. If it weren't for an incredible lactation consultant, I would have quit. When Eli was a month old, I developed clots in my milk ducts that resulted in a painful infection — .

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from NPR

NPR1 min readPolitics
House Passes $4.5 Billion In Emergency Border Aid
President Trump has threatened to veto the measure in favor of a Senate Republican version of the bill that would include about $50 million more for immigration courts.
NPR2 min readPsychology
Poll: Americans Say We're Angrier Than A Generation Ago
The latest NPR-IBM Watson Health poll found that 29% of people said they were often angry when checking the news. Another 42% said the news sometimes made them angry.
NPR4 min readSociety
How A Former Child Bride Got A Fatwa Against Child Marriage
It happened in Senegal last week, at a conference organized by young Africans to address the issues of child marriage and female genital mutilation. Here's the story behind the fatwa.