August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, and it’s a great time to show support for new and expectant moms.
Regional One Health offers a wealth of resources aimed at educating and helping women overcome challenges associated with breastfeeding so they can successfully nurse their babies.
Breastfeeding offers a number of benefits, including infection prevention for newborns and mom-baby bonding.
Breastfeeding is a natural, healthy way to nourish your baby – but it’s also hard work! The lactation team at Regional One Health understands that, so they’re celebrating Breastfeeding Awareness Month in August by helping new moms access the support they need.
“At Regional One Health, we’re big advocates and supporters of breastfeeding moms,” said Christy Brooks, RN, BSN, IBCLC, nurse coordinator for lactation. “We’re here to educate new moms and families and support their decision to breastfeed.”
Brooks said her lactation team’s goal is to give moms the information they need to succeed at breastfeeding. To that end, she addressed some of the top questions and concerns she hears.
I don’t know where to start!
Education is the first step, Brooks said: “Our lactation team sees moms before delivery and after delivery. We talk to them about the benefits of breastfeeding, as well as things like breastfeeding positions, proper latching and how to use a breast pump.”
Brooks suggested learning about breastfeeding and gathering any supplies you need while you’re still pregnant. Then, when your baby is born, have skin-to-skin contact as soon as possible. Try breastfeeding while you’re still in the hospital and nurses are available to help.
Regional One Health’s lactation nurses meet with patients during their prenatal care and while they’re in the hospital after giving birth. The goal is to provide women with information and support to successfully breastfeed.
If your baby needs to be in the NICU or you’ll be returning to work soon after your baby’s birth, Brooks said lactation nurses can help with learning how to pump and safely store breastmilk.
What if I don’t have enough milk supply?
In the first few days, you may not seem to produce much milk. However, Brooks said, you’ll be giving your baby colostrum, which contains all the fluid and nutrients he or she needs along with immunity-building substances.
From there, breastfeeding comes down to supply and demand. As your baby needs more milk, they will nurse more frequently, causing your supply to increase. If you are unable to breastfeed, lactation nurses encourage pumping and hand expression for milk production and supply.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months. Brooks noted even if your baby isn’t exclusively breastfed, they still benefit from any amount of breastmilk they receive. She suggested setting a goal to breastfeed for a certain amount of time.
Will it hurt?
If it does, it’s probably due to an incorrect latch, Brooks said. Lactation nurses help while moms are in the hospital and after discharge by showing them how to position their baby for feeding.
She also encourages new moms to focus on the physical benefits they gain from breastfeeding. It burns calories and helps you lose baby weight, helps your uterus return to its normal size, lowers risk of depression, and decreases your long-term risk of breast cancer and other cancers.
How can family members support a new mom’s decision to breastfeed?
Along with lactation nurses, Regional One Health offers a free breastfeeding class through its childbirth education program.
The theme of this year’s National Breastfeeding Month is Protect Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility. “If moms don’t have the support they need, they tend to not breastfeed as long or as well. A lack of support is the biggest barrier to success,” Brooks said. “Family and friends can help by being positive. Let her know she’s doing a good job and that you support her.”
You can bring a new mom a glass of water or healthy snack while she’s breastfeeding, or offer to hold the baby, take the baby for a walk, or help around the house.
Brooks also sends new moms home with information about how to contact her lactation team, Tennessee’s state breastfeeding hotline, and local support groups. “We want moms to know they’re not alone,” she said. “We give our phone number to all of our patients so they can reach out to us when they have questions.”
Why is breastfeeding so important?
Along with the upsides for moms, there are enormous benefits for babies, Brooks said.
“Breastmilk provides antibodies that can protect babies from viruses and bacteria, and it has the perfect combination of nutrients. Babies digest it better, which makes it easier on their system,” Brooks said. “It’s also a wonderful way for moms and babies to bond.”
If I’m struggling, where do I go for help?
Regional One Health is proud to offer resources for new moms. “Remember, most of the problems women experience with breastfeeding can be fixed with help,” Brooks said. “We can coach you through the issues you’re having and help you reach your goals.”
The Tennessee Breastfeeding Hotline is available 24/7 at 1-855-423-6667. For more information about Regional One Health’s breastfeeding class and other childbirth education programs, visit https://www.regionalonehealth.org/womens-services/classes/