NPR

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 — .

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