Health Check: Celebrating National Breastfeeding Month

BREASTFEEDING
Photo courtesy of Marloes via Flickr

Imagine that you’re about to start training for a challenging sport. Perhaps you’re learning how to lift weights or training for your first race. Now, imagine doing this with a crying newborn and four hours of sleep. This is a lot like learning to breastfeed. August is World Breastfeeding Month and a perfect time to talk about the joys and (totally normal) challenges of breastfeeding.

there are many similarities between breastfeeding and starting a new fitness routine; both are physical activities with great health benefits. You will need knowledge and determination to reach either goal. At the start of both, you may experience discomfort, soreness, or even pain, all of which will improve with practice. If not, there are experts who can help. Finally, you will learn to trust yourself.

The benefits of breastfeeding for the health of mother and baby are clear. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), babies who breastfeed are less likely to get infections, as children. Breastfed babies are also less likely to get chronic conditions, including heart disease and diabetes, as adults. Mom too has a lower chance of ovarian and breast cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Not surprisingly, many women and families want to breastfeed. While most women Bell breastfeed, only 25 percent of women exclusively breastfeed their baby for the first six months of life, as recommended by the American Association of Pediatrics. Exclusive breastfeeding means that the baby’s only food is breastmilk, not formula or a mix of the two.

If you or someone you know is breastfeeding or thinking about breastfeeding, here are three important facts to help increase their chance of meeting their breastfeeding goals:

  1. You Need to remove milk to make milk

When you remove milk from the breast, the body releases hormones that cause the breasts to refill. Most women will make enough milk to exclusively breastfeed a baby if they feed 10-12 times a day (or about every 2 hours). Unfortunately, long gaps without breastfeeding causes the body to produce less, and your milk will likely decrease and eventually stop. Imagine a woman who does not breastfeed after her baby’s birth. Her breasts will be full for a few days, but then she will “dry up.”

Again, you have to remove milk to make milk! New parents will often delay breastfeeding for the first few days if the baby is not nursing well, mom is in pain, or she’s simply exhausted. The result is little or no milk. Breastfeeding from your baby’s first day will create the milk you’ll need in the weeks to come.

  1. Breastfeeding can be hard, but practice leads to progress!

When a baby attaches to the breast, we call this the “latch.” Babies are born with the instinct to breastfeed, and usually latch within an hour of birth when placed on mom’s bare chest, a practice called “skin to skin.” It’s normal for newborns to cry and turn away from the nipple for the first breastfeeding sessions, or they might latch for several seconds, and then “pop off” the nipple.

This may leave loved ones confused and disappointed. If this occurs, don’t worry! After all, this is a new skill and you’re both beginners. Seek advice from the lactation consultant in the hospital and keep trying! This is not a reason to stop breastfeeding. Remember, learning to breastfeed is like learning a new fitness move, like a squat or a lunge. Practice leads to progress.

  1. Social Support Matters

Loved ones, including partners, relatives, or older children, can help you breastfeed by:

  • Spending time with baby “skin to skin.” A baby benefits from being skin to skin with caretakers of any gender or age. Holding a baby to your chest (while wearing a robe, low shirt, or no shirt) improves their breastfeeding skills!
  • Doing housework. Loved ones can help with laundry, dishes, cooking, and cleaning so that that mom can use her time to rest and to practice breastfeeding.
  • Learning about normal breastfeeding from trusted sources and when to seek help from a pediatrician, OBGYN, lactation consultant or breastfeeding hotline.
  • Providing mom with praise and encouragement during this challenging time. Remember, practice leads to progress.

To get breastfeeding help at Montefiore, consult your OBGYN or your child’s pediatrician. To learn more before or after you give birth, join these free online classes and support groups:

Just BirthSpace

Visit https://www.justbirthspace.org, and click “Support Groups and Classes” at the top. Also, check out the monthly Newborn Care and Infant Feeding Class, and the weekly Infant Feeding Support Group and Postpartum Support Group.

Bronx Baby Cafe Breastfeeding Support Group

This is an English-speaking group which meets online on Thursdays at 11 am

On the date and time, to begin the video session, visit https://hhc.webex.com/meet/lewiskd‌.

Schedule a one-on-one breastfeeding consult in person, by video or by phone:

  • Call the NYC Breastfeeding Warmline on (646) 965-7212, Monday to Friday, from 9 am to 5 pm
  • Contact one of Montefiore’s WIC offices or another local WIC office near you by referring to this this list provided by NYS Department of Health: https://www.health.ny.gov/prevention/nutrition/wic/local_agencies.htm or call the Growing Up Healthy hotline on (800) 522-5006 and ask for the nearest location to you.
  • Search for a private lactation consultant at ilca.org.

Claire Garon MPH, CHES is a health educator with the Office of Community and Population Health at Montefiore Health System.