Benefits of breastfeeding and support for the breastfeeding journey
August is National Breastfeeding Month—a time to promote breastfeeding and advocacy to ensure all families have the opportunity to breastfeed.
Breastfeeding is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, offering a great balance of nutrients for a baby while boosting their immune system and helping protect against a variety of diseases and conditions. And certified lactation consultants, like the team at Barton Family Medicine and Barton’s Family Birthing Center, help parents navigate the journey of breastfeeding and achieve their feeding goals.
Breastfeeding offers many benefits. For babies, breastfeeding is proven to reduce ear infections, respiratory infections, diarrhea, and vomiting. For the breastfeeding parent, breastfeeding contributes to a quicker recovery from childbirth and it can reduce your risk for certain breast and ovarian cancers.
However a family chooses to feed their babies, breastfeeding support is available. From anatomical differences to lack of familiarity, new parents may need to overcome several breastfeeding hurdles before a natural rhythm is established.
During pregnancy, lactation education classes are available to help prepare for breastfeeding. In addition to childbirth preparation classes, a lactation education class can teach parents about infant hunger cues, latching techniques, hand expression, supplements, and more. Knowing what is normal and what is not when it comes to breastfeeding can help a parent know when to reach out for help and reduce feeding anxiety.
Once the baby is born, a lactation specialist can again help breastfeeding parents learn different feeding positions, how to encourage a baby to latch, and how to navigate potential breastfeeding-related challenges like milk supply, plugged ducts, and pain. Additionally, lactation specialists can provide education and information about expressing or pumping breast milk.
Partners or loved ones of breastfeeding parents should be prepared to take an active role. Before leaving the hospital, understand how to access a follow-up lactation consultation and feel empowered to make this appointment for your partner or loved one. Remain attuned to the process and provide needed help and valued support. Encourage adequate food/ water consumption, meal plan and prep, help them remain comfortable, and importantly, support the entire feeding journey.
Whether or not a family chooses to breastfeed, feeding and caring for a newborn is a beautiful yet challenging time. Support is available—whether it’s a lactation specialist, pediatrician, or support group—parents and families aren’t alone.
Sarah Hart, RN, BSN, PHN, IBCLC is specially-trained to help families with their lactation needs. Certified by the International Board of Certified Lactation Consultants, Sarah can help answer lactation questions and address any challenges. Monthly lactation education classes are available, as well as lactation consultation services. Learn more at BartonHealth.org.
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