August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month. For many years, World Breastfeeding Week has been celebrated from August 1-7 with different themes to raise awareness of the need for breastfeeding education and support. Why focus on breastfeeding?
Numerous studies have shown the benefits of breastfeeding on both the mental and physical health of breastfeeding parents and babies. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently updated its recommendation for breastfeeding to align it with that of the World Health Organization (WHO). According to the AAP 2022 policy statement released in June, “AAP supports continued breastfeeding, as well as appropriate complementary foods introduced around 6 months, as long as mother and child mutually desire for 2 years or more. “. They also strongly support the need for social and systemic changes to support those who choose to breastfeed.
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Why do we need these political statements and Breastfeeding Week celebrations to draw attention to breastfeeding? According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the AAP, approximately 84% of women who give birth in the United States initiate breastfeeding. However, the number of exclusively breastfed infants is significantly reduced from three months to only 46% and from six months to around 26%.
What happens to those breastfeeding parents? What can we do to support the breastfeeding goals of breastfeeding parents? What are the steps to increase breastfeeding success?
The first is to seek to create a community of support. There is much in the medical and public literature on the importance of support, whether it be partners, spouses, family members, friends, obstetricians, midwives, doctors family, pediatricians or nurses. Breastfeeding a child requires a village. During pregnancy, contact the healthcare professional and tell them that you plan to breastfeed and discuss your concerns, especially if you have any medical conditions and if you have ever had difficulty breastfeeding.
The next step is preparation. Education is essential to successful breastfeeding. Many hospitals offer breastfeeding classes that can help expectant parents learn more about the first stages of a newborn’s life and about breastfeeding. The partner, spouse or family member who will be with that relative in the hospital should also attend the class. At Sentara Martha Jefferson, the course is online and free.
Many breastfeeding parents will return to work; the work environment is another factor in breastfeeding success. An expectant parent should know where the pump room is. Ask other parents who pump or breastfeed where they pump their milk.
It is important to know your employer’s policy and know your rights regarding pump breaks. According to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 2010, “Federal law requires employers to provide reasonable time off for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time that this employee needs to express the milk (section 7 of the FLSA).Employers are also required to provide a place, other than a bathroom, out of sight and protected from intrusion from co-workers and the public, which can be used by an employee to express milk.However, this law has left out more than 9 million people.The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is currently under review and may help address these shortcomings.
Also, in 2010, the Affordable Care Act required insurance companies to provide a breast pump to a breastfeeding person. Know the requirements of the insurance company and know where to get a pump. Each insurance company has different requirements for a person to get a pump. Do research before delivery. Often a prescription from your OB provider is required and a specific durable medical equipment (DME) provider must be used. Remember that it can take up to two weeks for the pump to arrive. Ask around and find out from friends, family members and breastfeeding specialists which type of breast pump will work best.
After delivery, place the baby skin-to-skin with the mother. Whether an infant is breastfed or bottle-fed, skin-to-skin is the best way for a newborn to transition to life outside the womb. Called the “golden hour,” this first hour after delivery is important for an infant to transition to life outside the womb and begin breastfeeding. Baby weighing and other measurements can wait until baby has a chance to adjust a little.
Breastfeed, as much as possible, in the first hour, then often and on demand during those first few days in the hospital so that everyone can learn and benefit from breastfeeding support from nurses and certified lactation consultants. International Board (IBCLC). Then follow up with the pediatrician and IBCLC after discharge for further assistance.
All in all, know that help is there for the new parent. Enjoy this new baby.
Allyson Michaels is a lactation consultant at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital.