The Gift of Breastfeeding
Luckily, Middle Georgia mothers who want to give their babies this invaluable gift have a plethora of resources available to them to maximize success.
Every new mom dreams of giving her baby the best of everything: the best home, the best clothes, the best toys, the best life. But according to a 2015 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than twenty-six percent of Georgia mothers neglect to give their babies one of the most valuable gifts a mother can give—the gift of breastfeeding.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that “babies be exclusively breastfed for about the first six months of life” and “should continue to breastfeed for a year and for as long as is mutually desired by the mother and baby.” Although baby formula manufacturers have been quite successful in recent years in convincing mothers that formula is just as good, breastfeeding benefits both mom and baby in ways that formula cannot replicate.
Breastfeeding is best for baby’s health. Breastfeeding enhances baby’s immune system, warding off illness and infections, and provides protection against long-term health issues, including obesity, certain cancers, diabetes, asthma, and some allergies. Breast milk is easier to digest than formula, reducing gas, colic, and spitting up. Breast milk changes to meet the needs of a growing baby, something formula cannot do.
Mothers who breastfeed experience less post-partum bleeding, lose their pregnancy weight faster, and have reduced risks of breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer. More importantly, breastfeeding facilitates bonding between mother and child. “Breastfeeding is more than just feeding; it is a relationship that flows out of affection,” says Lee McWilliams, RN, lactation nurse at The Medical Center, Navicent Health (MCNH). Breastfeeding also saves time and money, since there are no bottles to wash and sterilize and no formula to purchase, mix, and store.
Challenges and Solutions
But if breastfeeding is so beneficial, why doesn’t every mother breastfeed her baby? McWilliams points to inadequate knowledge and support for new mothers. She says many new mothers have a “lack of understanding of how breastfeeding works and often misinterpret infant behavior.” Breastfeeding is natural. Centuries of moms did it!
Plan in Advance
Assume that you will be successful in breastfeeding and get what you need. Purchase what you will need to make breastfeeding more comfortable and easier especially in the first few weeks which is usually the most difficult time. Plan for her to sleep in a bassinet or portable crib for the first few weeks to make feedings easier on you both. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, your health insurance plan must cover the cost of a breast pump. It may be either a rental unit or a new one you’ll keep. Your insurance plan may have guidelines on whether the covered pump is manual or electric, the length of the rental, and when you’ll receive it (before or after birth). Most insurances will also cover lactation services as well.
Be Your Baby’s Advocate
On the big day, it’s important to breastfeed the baby immediately after delivery. Should the staff not immediately offer the baby to you, request her. Ask to have a lactation consultant come help you. Keep your baby in your hospital room all day and night if allowed, or ask the nurses to bring baby to you for feedings. Insist that hospital staff not give your baby other food or formula, unless it is medically necessary.
Learn Your Baby’s Cues
Learn your baby’s hunger cues, such as putting her hands in her mouth, turning her head looking for the breast, becoming more alert and active, lip smacking, opening and closing mouth.
All three major hospitals in Macon and Warner Robins offer prenatal classes focused on techniques and hints to help expectant mothers who plan to breastfeed get off to the best possible start. Contact MCNH’s Beginnings Program at 478.633.2229, the Coliseum Medical Center’s (CMC) Family Ties Birthing Center at 478.765.4898, or HMC’s Special Delivery Education Program at 478.923.9771.
The three hospitals and local WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) programs employ certified lactation consultants who are available to assist breastfeeding mothers. These specially-trained nurses provide post-partum support while a mother is still in the hospital or by phone and/or outpatient visits after the family goes home. “Your breast milk is perfectly matched to meet your baby’s needs for proper growth and development,” Houston Medical Center (HMC) (hhc.org) says. “Learn about the proper latch, various feeding positions, infant feeding cues, as well as guidelines for frequency and duration of feedings.” Contact lactation consultants at HMC (478.923.9771), MCNH (478.633.2771), CMC (478.765.4502), or at WIC offices at all Health Departments in the North Central Health District (northcentralhealthdistrict.org).
Other breastfeeding mothers can be amazing sources of support and encouragement for new mothers. Swap ideas and tips with existing friends and relatives who breastfeed, and join a local mothers’ group or breastfeeding support group.
Log on to online breastfeeding discussion forums (community.whattoexpect.com and freshmilkmama.com) to chat with other moms about the challenges and rewards of breastfeeding. Additionally, check out La Leche League International (llli.org) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Family Resource Guide (aap.org) for additional education, information, support, and encouragement.
Call the National Breastfeeding Helpline at 800.994.9662 to get answers to common breastfeeding questions and help to decide if you need to see a doctor or lactation consultant. The Helpline is available Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. If you call after hours and leave a message, a peer counselor will return your call the next day.
Breastfeeding is a learning process for both mom and baby. Maybe breastfeeding will come easy, or perhaps you will have to work through some significant challenges. Either way, it empowers a woman to know she is providing everything her baby needs.” #