New Moms Need Support to Make Breastfeeding Last

From the child’s name to the color of the nursery, expectant moms face a lot of choices. Perhaps the most important is whether to breastfeed.

According to a new national report card on breastfeeding, more U.S. mothers than ever - about three in four - choose nursing, at least in the beginning. That is good news, since breast milk contains the perfect nutrition for babies. “Breastfed infants have a lower risk for allergies, infections and other illnesses,” says Libby Svoboda, Manager of Community Education at University Hospitals MacDonald Women’s Hospital’s Center for Women’s Health. “They are also less likely to be overweight as children.”

Breastfeeding has perks for new moms, too, including:

  • Easier weight loss
  • Less risk for breast cancer, ovarian cancer and postpartum depression
  • A closer bond with your baby

Facing Breastfeeding Challenges

There is a flip side to the new report. The American Academy of Pediatrics and other medical groups recommend feeding your baby breast milk alone for six months and continuing to nurse for at least one year. However, the number of babies still breastfeeding at these points has reached a plateau.

Experts say not all new moms get the support they need to keep nursing. “Breastfeeding can sometimes be challenging,” Svoboda says. “Some women may struggle with issues, such as lack of an employer lactation support program in their work setting and breastfeeding in public.”

Get Off to the Right Start

To make nursing work for you, start preparing during pregnancy by learning about breastfeeding before your baby is born. Ask your doctor or Certified Nurse-Midwife for help. He or she may recommend attending a prenatal breastfeeding education session and talking with an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant, lactation counselor or La Leche League leader.

“It is important to start breastfeeding as soon as possible after your baby’s birth,” Svoboda says. “If possible, begin Kangaroo Care or skin-to-skin with your baby immediately or shortly following birth to initiate breastfeeding.”

If needed, your doctor, Certified Nurse-Midwife, International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant or lactation counselor can assist you with the best ways to hold your newborn to ensure a proper latch. “You may need to breastfeed every two hours or so, but after a few weeks, healthy babies develop their own individual feeding patterns,” Svoboda says. “Follow your infant’s lead.”

Nursing for the Long Haul

Once home, your doctor, Certified Nurse Midwife, International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant or lactation counselor can help if you have problems breastfeeding. Common initial concerns may include swollen or engorged breasts and tender nipples.

You can still breastfeed even if you go back to work. Empty your breasts by hand expression or use a pump so your baby can drink your breast milk from a bottle or cup while you are apart.

“Since there may be a few initial challenges, more and more people are recognizing the importance of supporting breastfeeding mothers,” Svoboda says.

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