BY HEATHER CARR
Middle Georgia nurses praise the benefits of breastfeeding and offer tips and resources to maximize success.
Every new mom dreams of giving her baby the best: the best home, the best clothes, the best toys, the best life. But according to a 2011 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 28 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 “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.”
Breastfeeding is best for baby’s health. It enhances the immune system, warding off illness and providing protection against long-term health issues. Additionally, “Breast milk changes to meet the needs of a growing baby, something formula cannot do,” emphasizes Patsy Zoumberis, R.N., a veteran labor and delivery and lactation nurse with Houston Medical Center (HMC).
Mothers who breastfeed experience less post-partum bleeding, lose their pregnancy weight faster, and have a reduced risk of 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, R.N., lactation nurse at the Medical Center of Central Georgia (MCCG). 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
If breastfeeding is so beneficial, why doesn’t every mother breastfeed? McWilliams says many new mothers have a “lack of understanding of how breastfeeding works and often misinterpret infant behavior.” Both McWilliams and Zoumberis are quick to acknowledge that breastfeeding is not always easy, but they contend that education and support are paramount.
The following resources are available to Middle Georgia mothers to maximize their chances of breastfeeding success:
Breastfeeding Classes — All three major hospitals in Macon and Warner Robins offer prenatal breastfeeding classes to help mothers get off to the best possible start. Contact MCCG’s Beginnings Program at 478.633.2229, the Coliseum Medical Center’s (CMC) Family Ties Birthing Center at 478.765.4502, or HMC’s Special Delivery Education Program at 478.923.9771.
Lactation Consultants — The three hospitals and local WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) programs employ certified lactation consultants to assist breastfeeding mothers. These specially-trained nurses provide post-partum support in the hospital, by phone, and during outpatient visits after the family goes home. Contact lactation consultants at MCCG (478.633.2771), CMC (478.765.4502), HMC (478.923.9771), or at WIC offices in all health departments of the North Central Health District.
Peer Support — Share ideas with existing friends and relatives who breastfeed, and join a local mothers’ group or breastfeeding support group. A free breastfeeding support group lead by Wilma Matos, a certified lactation consultant and doula, meets monthly in Warner Robins. For more information or to register for the group, visit www.meetup/gentlebeginningwr.com, or call 478.997.2005.
Online Options — Visit online breastfeeding discussion forums to chat with other moms about the challenges and rewards of breastfeeding. Check out La Leche League International and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Family Resource Guide for additional support.
By Phone — Call the National Breastfeeding Helpline at 800.994.9662 Mon.–Fri., 9 a.m.–6 p.m., to speak to a peer counselor who can answer common breastfeeding questions and help you decide if you need to see a doctor or lactation consultant.
Zoumberis insists that the effort a mother devotes to breastfeeding is well worth it. She says, “Mom and baby both have to learn how to breastfeed. Maybe breastfeeding will come easy, or perhaps you will have to work through some challenges. Either way, it empowers a woman to know she is providing everything her baby needs.”
Tips for Breastfeeding Success
Get educated — before baby arrives. Take a prenatal breastfeeding education class, and access online resources, such as the AAP Family Resource Guide.
Get started — immediately. Breastfeed as soon as possible after birth, and ask to have a lactation consultant come help you. Keep your baby in your hospital room all day and night, 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.
Get tuned in — to your baby. Learn your baby’s hunger cues, such as putting her hands in her mouth or turning her head looking for the breast. Have her sleep in a portable crib or bassinet in your room for the first few weeks to make night feedings easier on both of you.
Get support — from local resources. Connect with a lactation consultant while you are pregnant or during your post-partum stay in the hospital. Build yourself a personal support system by utilizing the peer, online, and telephone resources described at the end of the main article.
Breastfeeding Tips for Working Moms
Just when you and your new bundle of joy get the hang of breastfeeding, it’s time to go back to work! Returning to work or school definitely adds new challenges, but the following tips will help ease the transition.
Take as many weeks off as you can – For financial reasons, many mothers have to return to work after just a few weeks, but employers covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act are required to provide eligible employees with up to a total of twelve work weeks of unpaid leave in a twelve month period following the birth of a child.
Ask coworkers who breastfeed – or have breastfed their babies about what worked for them, and incorporate their suggestions into your daily routine, if applicable.
Speak to your supervisor about your plans to breastfeed – before you go out on maternity leave. Discuss scheduling options that are conducive to breastfeeding, such as starting back part-time initially or working split shifts. Find out about private areas at work where you can comfortably and safely breastfeed your baby or express milk during breaks.
Try to arrange for childcare close to work, so you can visit – and breastfeed your baby during your meal break.
When you arrive to pick up your baby from childcare, breastfeed your baby before taking him home – if possible. Many childcare facilities will provide a quiet place for you to reconnect with and feed your baby before you head home to take care of the evening’s responsibilities.