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Tuesday, August 07, 2012 - August is National Breastfeeding Month...

Methodist offers support, classes, and expert staff to help you succeed
August is National Breastfeeding Month, an initiative established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2011 to encourage women to commit to breastfeeding.  

Research shows that breastfeeding is nourishing, boosts disease-fighting ability and more, but a large number of mothers in the United States, they say, do not breastfeed their babies.  Nearly three out of four mothers start breastfeeding while still in the hospital, but by the time their baby is 6 months old, just 43 percent are still breastfeeding.  Fewer than one of four mothers in the United States breastfeeds till their child's first birthday.

And those numbers represent only women who do any breastfeeding.  Just 33 percent of mothers exclusively breastfeed to three months of age, and only 14 percent to six months.

Benefits of Breastfeeding

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breast-feeding for a year, and as long as baby and mother desire after that. Once a baby reaches six months old, the mother can start adding in complimentary foods.

But until then, exclusive breast-feeding has the backing of medical research, which shows that the physical benefits of breast-feeding are improved with exclusive breastfeeding for six months.

So why don't more mothers breastfeed? Breastfeeding can be difficult to learn, for both mother and child. And American society, according to some experts, doesn't provide the sort of support needed to promote the practice.

Breast milk contains a rich amount of nutrients, hormones and antibodies, a wondrous combination that acts in concert to promote good health in vulnerable newborns.

Health benefits that babies gain from breastfeeding, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, include:

  • Protection against infections of the ear and respiratory system.

  • Protection against diseases of the digestive and intestinal tract that cause vomiting or diarrhea.

  • Reduced risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

  • Reduced likelihood that the child will develop such chronic diseases as diabetes, asthma and obesity later in life.

  • Enhanced brain development.

  • Decreased risk for leukemia, lymphoma and other cancers.

These protections have been found unique to breast milk. Baby formula manufacturers have been unable to replicate the chemical makeup of breast milk, and thus have not been able to create a product that provides the same health benefits.

It's not so easy to just say we'll take one component out and put it in a substitute milk. It's really the interaction of all these factors together that produce these protective effects.

Breastfeeding from the Beginning

Studies have shown that most successful breast-feeding begins within an hour of birth. However, many hospitals are not supportive of keeping the mother and the baby together and unseparated.  Only one-third of hospitals practice rooming in, which provides mothers and babies frequent opportunities to practice breastfeeding.

At Methodist Medical Center’s Family Birthing Center, all of the nursing staff is trained to offer breastfeeding support.  Additionally, Methodist practices rooming-in for moms and babies, and offers breastfeeding right after the birth and throughout the hospitalization. The Family Birthing Center at Methodist also provides a certified lactation consultant who meets with every breastfeeding mom to follow-up on any feeding issues.

A stumbling block for some is that breastfeeding is not easy. Though it's often described as a natural process, both mother and newborn need to learn how to work together for feeding. It can take two or three weeks for moms and babies to really get to know each other, and how the whole system works. Even with a mom who's breastfed other babies, she can have a newborn who is different and responds differently.

Methodist Medical Center’s expert staff provides breastfeeding mothers with as much information and education as possible to help make breastfeeding a healthy and happy experience for both mom and baby. Both daytime and evening breastfeeding classes are offered prior to birth and once a baby is born, personal breastfeeding support is offered by staff, and mothers are provided handouts and educational videos for continued help. 

During this learning period, babies can become very fussy. If mothers aren't provided solid moral support, they can lose their confidence and abandon breast-feeding. That’s why the Methodist Family Birthing Center provides mothers with additional resources such as breastfeeding support groups, supplies, and information on breast pump rentals. Staff also follow-up after delivery with discharge phone calls and will even schedule follow up visits at any point in the post partum period if the mom needs additional help breastfeeding.

Methodist also provides breastfeeding support to mother’s who’ve delivered at other facilities.

"We offer breastfeeding support to anyone who needs it, even if they have not delivered at Methodist Medical Center,” says Cheryl Stallings, RN, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant in the Family Birthing Center.  “We have new residents to Oak Ridge that call asking for assistance and we have provided on-going breastfeeding support.”

If you are interested in learning more about the breastfeeding classes offered at Methodist Medical Center, or for more information about the Family Birthing Center, please call (865) 835-2268.