We recognize and believe that breastfeeding is the healthiest source of nutrition for a baby, and that breastfeeding is a personal choice that should not be judged. No Mother should be shamed for her feeding choices.
Many people have heard that “breast is best,” and that is an accurate statement. Breastmilk is better for babies than formula.
The World Health Organization notes that breastfeeding supports an infant’s sensory and cognitive development, reduces infant mortality, helps them recover from illness more quickly, and reduces their risk of childhood cancers. Furthermore, breastfeeding reduces the risk of ovarian and breast cancers in breastfeeding mothers.
With that said, “Fed is Best” is a term popping up more and more, which is also accurate. The benefits of breastfeeding to both Mother and Baby include a long list, and it is also true that breastfeeding is not possible or the best choice for every family. The “Breast is Best” campaign was in response to a recent historical shift to formula, mainly benefiting the formula industry. This post is not written with judgement but rather a sense of informing and educating.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization both recommend exclusive breastfeeding for a child’s first six months, and then continued breastfeeding along with solids for 1 or 2 years of age or beyond. In the United States, 3 out of 4 Mothers start out breastfeeding, but by 6 months this number has dropped to 1 our of 4.
Unfortunately, one mother’s interest alone is not always enough to make breastfeeding possible.
Up to 60% of mothers do not breastfeed for as long as they intend to. How long a mother breastfeeds her baby (duration) is influenced by many factors including:
- Issues with lactation and latching.
- Concerns about infant nutrition and weight.
- Mother’s concern about taking medications while breastfeeding.
- Unsupportive work policies and lack of parental leave.
- Cultural norms and/or lack of family support.
- Unsupportive hospital practices and policies.
Although most infants receive some breastmilk, most are not exclusively breastfeeding or continuing to breastfeed as long as recommended.
So what can we do to encourage the breastfeeding relationship?
5 Ways to Encourage the Breastfeeding Relationship
1.Get an Early Start. Immediate skin-to-skin when possible (including after a cesarean), and bringing baby to the breast as soon as possible will help start your breastfeeding relationship. See Baby Midwifery and Dr. Bootstaylor offer Family Centered Cesareans that include immediate skin-to-skin in the O.R. when possible. The “golden hour” is a practice of putting baby right onto Mother’s chest after delivery, and leaving them alone for at least an hour. We know this is important for the family and the breastfeeding relationship.
2.Educate Your Family. Partners and Grandparents might not be familiar with breastfeeding, and they might be unsure of how to help. You can educate them on the benefits of breastfeeding to Mother and Baby, and ask ahead of time that they support you and your breastfeeding goals.
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding explains that ‘there is almost nothing you can do for your child in his whole life that will affect him both emotionally and physically as profoundly as breastfeeding.’ Human milk provides the specific nutrients that babies need to grow, both in size and maturity. Your milk is made to order for your baby. Research points to the significant value to infants, mothers, families and the environment from breastfeeding.
You can read and share the whole article with family on The Importance of Breastfeeding here
3.Consider Bed Sharing. A large part of your 24 hour day is spent in bed, and you might be a good candidate for sharing your bed with your baby. This article on safe sleeping will explain if you are a good candidate, and the 7 steps that you can take to ensure safe sleep.
4.Know Your Rights. It is legal to breastfeed in public in all 50 states as of 2018. You also might have the right to pump at work, and possibly in a private space that is not the bathroom. Your rights depend on your location and workplace, so research an understand your rights.
The Affordable Care Act, the 2010 law you may know better as “Obamacare,” requires employers to allow women to pump breast milk while they are at work. (It’s in section 4207 for anyone brave enough to hunt it down.) But like many federal regulations covering American workers, it’s shot through with loopholes.
5.Get Help. Lactation Consultants can help you and your baby become comfortable with your breastfeeding relationship. They can check your baby’s latch and either confirm that your baby is getting the milk needed, or help correct a bad latch. A correct latch will prevent sore nipples and a frustrated baby. Lactation Consultants can also identify anatomical reasons that might interfere with successful breastfeeding, such as lip and tongue ties. Lactation Consultants will either visit you in your home, or have offices in hospitals or in a private office space.
+ Get More Help! Postpartum Doulas are a wonderful resource to have. DONA defines a Doula as:
“a trained professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to a mother before, during and shortly after childbirth to help her achieve the healthiest, most satisfying experience possible.”
During the Postpartum Period a Doula will support parents as they transition into their new role. This includes breastfeeding support, as well as other aspects such as light cleaning to decrease a Mother’s responsibilities so that she can focus on her new breastfeeding relationship.
For more information:
The National Breastfeeding Helpline: 1-800-994-9662