August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month
Research shows that breastfeeding is one of the healthiest things a mother can do for her baby, and it also lowers the risk of ovarian and breast cancers for mothers, as well as type 2 diabetes.
Breast milk is called “liquid gold” for good reason. It provides babies with a variety of essential nutrients, and also includes antibodies to protect babies from illnesses like ear infections, diarrhea, respiratory illnesses and allergies, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Breast milk is also easier to digest than formula.
Breast milk has the right amount of fat, sugar, water, protein and minerals needed for a baby’s growth and development. As your baby grows, your breast milk changes to adapt to the baby’s changing nutritional needs, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Memorial Regional Health offers “What to Expect” classes for pregnant women. The classes provide information about breastfeeding, parenting, childbirth and general wellness. MRH’s Women’s Health department has additional training and experience to assist mothers, both at the hospital and after they go home. At any point during a mother’s breastfeeding journey, Certified Nurse Midwife Liz Sterling said the staff can help with latch issues, milk supply issues, weight gain, tips on returning to work, pumping and anything between.
Barriers to Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding might be natural, but it doesn’t always come naturally. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that only one in four infants are exclusively breastfed as recommended by the time they are 6 months old.
In the U.S., 75 percent of mothers start out breastfeeding, but only 13 percent of babies are exclusively breastfed at the end of six months, according to the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for about the first 6 months, with continued breastfeeding alongside introduction of complementary foods for at least one year, while the World Health Organization recommends exclusively breastfeeding up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding and other appropriate complementary foods until age 2 or beyond.
There are a variety of issues and reasons women struggle to breastfeed for the recommended time frames. These include a lack of knowledge, lactation problems, a lack of family or social support, social norms, embarrassment, employment and child care issues, and health services, according to the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding.
American women of childbearing age are often employed, a new norm that differs from past generations. The surgeon general’s report states that employed women are less likely to initiate breastfeeding, and they tend to breastfeed for a shorter length of time than women who are not employed.
Breastfeeding can also cause pain early on, but Sterling can help with latching issues, which are the common causes for more severe breastfeeding pain.
Some mothers who weren’t able to breastfeed their first baby assume that’ll be the case with another baby, and MRH reminds them that every baby is different, and every experience is different.
“At MRH, we can help you navigate the issues you struggled with the first time and help you to be successful this time around,” Sterling said.
The Benefits of Breastfeeding
Breast milk is perfectly formulated to nourish your baby, Sterling said. It’s rich in nutrients babies can digest easily, and it also has antibodies that protect babies from infection.
Sterling point out the many benefits of breast milk for babies, which include a decrease in their risk for asthma, leukemia, childhood obesity, ear infections, respiratory infections, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), type 2 diabetes and GI diseases.
“Breastfeeding provides unmatched health benefits for babies and mothers. It is the clinical gold standard for infant feeding and nutrition, with breast milk uniquely tailored to meet the health needs of a growing baby. We must do more to create supportive and safe environments for mothers who choose to breastfeed,” according to Dr. Ruth Petersen, director of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity.
Breastfeeding is, of course, a choice, first and foremost. That’s why MRH nurses and doctors make sure they’re offering pregnant women all the right tools and education to help them make the best decision for their family.
“Prior to delivery, it is beneficial to attend a breastfeeding class, like the one available at MRH. This helps prepare the mom beforehand, so she has a greater chance of success,” Hergenreter said. “Knowing things like the steps to achieving a good latch, facts about colostrum and milk supply, different positions and the benefits of breastfeeding can be really helpful.”
Women’s Health Services at MRH
MRH offers comprehensive OB/GYN and women’s health services to Craig and surrounding communities. Whether you need an obstetrician or midwife to guide you through pregnancy and childbirth or provide preventive screenings and annual exams — or you need a gynecologist for an array of women’s health services — we can help.
For more information, call 970-826-8230, or visit memorialregionalhealth.com.
For information about childbirth classes, call 970-826-3270.
ABCS OF BREASTFEEDING
A – Assistance
Your baby will need to learn how to position your breast far back in his or her mouth, so that he or she can feed effectively, not just use the nipple as a pacifier.
B – Breastmilk
A baby takes less than a teaspoon of colostrum (or early milk) with each breastfeeding session in the first couple of days. This small amount is exactly right to meet his or her needs.
C – Contact
Research shows holding your baby skin-to-skin can lead to the following benefits:
- Helping your baby sleep more
- Helping you sleep more
- Helping your baby learn to breastfeed sooner
- Keeping your baby at the perfect body temperature
- Increasing your milk production