Breastfeeding is Beneficial to Moms and Babies
by Ally Roy, MD
August is breastfeeding awareness month. Although organizations such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Academy of Pediatrics and World Health Organization recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, several barriers can make this goal difficult to achieve. Initial breastfeeding rates nationally are around 80% but are only about 65% in West Virginia. By six months after delivery, this rate drops to around 50% nationally and 35% in West Virginia.
So why doesn’t everyone breastfeed? Because it is HARD. Really, really hard! I would say breastfeeding has been the single most difficult thing I have done in my life (more difficult than medical school, any exam I have taken or working long hours with little rest). Breastfeeding is not for everyone for many reasons. However, since breastfeeding when able has many proven benefits, let’s talk about some ways to increase breastfeeding rates.
Some benefits of breastfeeding include:
- Providing protective antibodies to the infant to combat potential infections
- Decreased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- Increased bonding between mother and infant
- Maternal weight loss
- Savings on purchasing formula
We can all agree that these are some pretty impressive benefits. So, if breastfeeding is feasible, it can benefit both moms and babies tremendously.
Breastfeeding is usually most successful if initiated soon after delivery. Some barriers include if either mother or infant require additional care following delivery (such as if the infant needs care in the NICU or is preterm). Your delivery doctors and nurses can help initiate pumping as soon as possible if you are interested in breastfeeding but have a barrier to early skin-to-skin contact.
Sometimes after returning home with a new infant, new challenges to feeding can present. For example, an infant may not latch appropriately; a mother may not produce enough milk for a hungry, growing infant; or returning to work may result in a decrease in milk supply. Several resources are available to assist with issues that may arise including in-hospital and in-office lactation specialists. Don’t be afraid to ask for help!
Breastfeeding is not for everyone. Luckily there are many alternatives to breastfeeding. The decision to breastfeed should be considered by a mother and her doctor as well as the infant’s doctor following delivery.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call Marshall Obstetrics & Gynecology at 304-691-1400.
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