August 1-7 is recognized annually as World Breastfeeding Week to raise awareness about breastfeeding. This year’s theme is: Intensify breastfeeding, educate and support. Have you supported a breastfeeding family?
In order to support breastfeeding, we need to know why it matters. Having good factual information is crucial for encouraging and providing support. Breastfeeding is the healthiest option for mom and baby. Children who receive breast milk get less sick, have fewer digestive problems, fewer allergies, less eczema and lower rates of SIDS than formula-fed babies. Breast milk changes to meet the specific nutritional needs of the baby as he grows. There are nutrients and hormones in breast milk that cannot be found or duplicated anywhere else in the world. Mom’s benefits are just as amazing! They heal faster after childbirth, lose pregnancy weight faster, report lower rates of postpartum depression, and lower their risk of contracting certain diseases the longer they breastfeed.
Not only does breastfeeding provide health benefits for mother and baby, but it is also good for family finances, the environment, and employers of breastfeeding mothers. Exclusive breastfeeding instead of formula for a year can save families between $900 and $2,900 (and possibly more due to price increases from recent shortages). When babies are fed directly from the breast, there is less waste from product packaging or wasted energy. Employers also benefit when their employees breastfeed, since breastfed babies are less sick, allowing employees to have better attendance. Is there someone or something who is not benefiting from breastfeeding?
These facts are great, but how can you help the people in your life and community who are breastfeeding? There are many ways for family, friends, fathers and colleagues to support a breastfeeding mother. Continually encouraging Mom with kind words and love is a great start. If the breastfeeding person is a friend or relative, there are many ways to support them. When you visit mom and baby, make sure it’s a good time and that she’s comfortable having other people around. Bring a meal and offer to take care of things while mom focuses on the baby. Dads can help by tending to baby’s needs, like bath time or diaper changes, making sure mom has refreshments or a snack and is comfortable while nursing.
Employers and colleagues of breastfeeding mothers can also offer support. Being aware of their need to express when they return to work, having written policies that protect the employee who is pumping, giving her a reasonable amount of time to express in a comfortable space are ways to help parents to achieve their breastfeeding goals. A workplace may even be recognized by the State of Missouri as a breastfeeding-friendly workplace for supporting their mothers in these ways. When the baby’s caregivers or daycare providers are educated about breastfeeding, it also supports the family. When child care providers feed breastfed infants on demand instead of on a schedule, educate employees about handling breast milk, provide parents with a place to feed the baby during child care hours, and provide a place to storage for expressed milk, families can more easily succeed in achieving their breastfeeding goals. The State of Missouri also recognizes daycares that are breastfeeding friendly in these ways.
Another way to support a breastfeeding mother is to know where and how to get her help if things aren’t going well or she’s having trouble achieving her goals. Breastfeeding is natural and meant for babies, but that doesn’t mean it’s perfect every time – problems can arise. A mother may struggle with things like poor latch, low milk supply, having a baby in the NICU, or many other things that interfere with her breastfeeding journey. In Jefferson City, there are several breastfeeding family resources that are part of the Cole County Breastfeeding Coalition. Cole County Health Department, Capital Region Hospital, SSM St. Mary’s Hospital, Pregnancy Support Center, Whaley’s Mommy & Me, and Covenant Chiropractic & Wellness are a few places in the city that offer education and support.
They have breastfeeding education classes, support groups, or access to International Board-certified lactation consultants for any breastfeeding questions or concerns.
Help is there if mom needs it! These are amazing resources and right here locally. It is also very useful if you are looking for information to share online. Seeing IBCLC in the author’s credentials should be a comfort that the information is from an expert source.
The Cole County Breastfeeding Coalition will kick off World Breastfeeding Week at the 72nd Annual Jefferson City Jaycees County Fair by providing a breastfeeding area and diaper changing station for families. Coalition members will be available to provide breastfeeding education and support, to answer questions and concerns from all members of the community. And there will be giveaways and a chance to win prizes!
Tressie Roberson has been a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor and Health Professional Assistant for the Cole County WIC Program for nearly five years. She is a member of the Missouri Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Taskforce, Cole County Breastfeeding Coalition and has presented for the National WIC Association.