Breastfeeding in a food desert

NPR’s “Tell Me More” has a great 15-minute piece on the challenges of breastfeeding in an urban food desert, although it doesn’t go deep enough into some of the nutritional challenges of such an environment. It makes some great points about why it is difficult for mothers without easy access to resources such as lactation consultants to keep up with breastfeeding.

It focuses on a study that found public places in urban areas lack the spaces in libraries and retail stores to allow moms to breastfeed. I actually had no idea that Targets in the suburbs had nursing rooms, or that some people find it offensive when women breastfeed in public. I always use a nursing cover or blanket, so I don’t really see why it would bother anybody what I’m doing with my child as long as we are appropriately covered. I think it requires a cultural change and acceptance of public breastfeeding, as women are trying more and more to go about their daily business while raising a baby. The piece also notes the challenges with pumping, namely the lack of spaces to do so and the stigma in workplaces against women taking breaks for that purpose.

But I wish it had explored further the value of good nutrition for the mother while she is breastfeeding. Nursing requires moms to increase their calories, the milk is made up of the foods that the mom consumes and it is specialized to the specific infant (as this Slate article explains well). Staying hydrated and eating well are so important, but those can be challenges in communities where access to good food — and information about what is good food — can be lacking. I can’t find a link to the underlying Kellogg study, but please post in comments if you do so that we can see whether it explores those topics.

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