Caught between the ideal of breastfeeding and the reality of doing it

On a recent vacation in St. Lucia, I came across this mama nursing her babies. “Public breastfeeding. How great!” I thought. But, after posting this picture on Facebook, these were some of the responses: “Yikes! They need to be weaned!” and “they are pretty big to be still nursing.” This, of course, got my head whirling about people’s attitudes toward breastfeeding.

On the surface, there is support — breast is best after all, right? Not only does breast milk provide the perfect nutritional needs for a baby, there are also multiple health benefits to both mom and baby as well as the unique bonding that breastfeeding fosters. But when it comes down to it, the many challenges of learning how to breastfeed, having an adequate supply, incorporating breastfeeding with work, and the awkwardness of being out in public are glossed over. I’ve seen so many patients caught between their ideal of breastfeeding and the reality of doing it.

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