Throughout history, breastfeeding has come in and out of fashion for a variety of reasons. Today, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, with solids being introduced then and breastfeeding continuing through to one year old.
Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital does everything it can to provide the support that new mothers need to breastfeed their babies, with strong results—more than 80 percent of new mothers at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital breastfeed their babies.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has studied the benefits of breastfeeding and found that it can decrease ear infections by 30-43 percent, obesity rates by 10 percent, asthma by 37 percent and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) incidence by 40-60 percent.
“Breast milk is the ideal human milk for babies,” says Allyson Michaels, RN, and lactation consultant at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital. “The first food or milk a mother makes is called colostrum. Colostrum is rich in the right amount of nutrients to nourish a newborn. Full of mothers antibodies, it jump starts the infant’s immune system and offers lifelong protection from many diseases.”
Michaels notes that mothers benefit as well. Mothers get back to pre-pregnancy weight faster, have less blood loss after delivery, have fewer problems with postpartum depression and are less likely to have premenopausal breast cancer and osteoporosis later in life.
What DoI Need to Know?
Breast milk is called liquid gold for all its important health benefits, but it’s not an all or nothing proposition. Some women produce less breast milk than others, but any breast milk will provide health benefits to your baby.
Experts recommend beginning breastfeeding within the first few hours of a baby’s birth—a time often called the Golden Hours. This time helps mothers bond with their babies, and most hospitals allow for immediate breastfeeding time as long as the baby is medically stable. Even moms who have had a cesarean birth are being allowed this opportunity if mom and baby are stable shortly after birth. Weighing, measuring and bathing the baby can wait until after that first hour.
In addition, it’s very important to relax when feeding your baby. Babies can sense stress from you and don’t feed as well. Stress inhibits oxytocin – the hormone that affects milk release – and decreases milk let down. So, create a calm environment and reduce visits from friends and family at first.
Finally, learn your baby’s hunger clues – such as moving their eyes, sucking on their hands, lip smacking, grimacing, whimpering or crying. Every child is different on how they communicate, but knowing these cues will make the feeding session that much more successful.
What if I Need Help?
Breastfeeding is a learned and practiced art. Babies are born with an instinct and reflex to suck. However, the baby has to learn the mother and the mother, the baby. It is like learning to ride a bicycle. If you are feeling uncertain, you should always feel comfortable asking for help—at the hospital or from home.
Sentara Martha Jefferson offers breastfeeding classes for expectant parents, as well as access to board certified lactation consultants at the hospital and for postpartum counseling. Your pediatrician is also a great first resource for breastfeeding issues.
Remember, just because your body is designed to feed your baby, doesn’t mean it’s easy. Make sure you get support from your physician/pediatrician, home, work and even other moms. Having a support system and asking for help when needed will make this journey much more enjoyable and successful.
However we get there, a healthy mom and a healthy baby are really the ultimate goals.
Sentara Martha Jefferson Offers free breastfeeding classes. For more information, visit www.SentaraMJHMaternity.com.