New moms need better breastfeeding support

I am going to repeat myself now but I feel that this is such an important topic it has to be stressed and talked about.

Breast milk is the best food for your baby. Period.

Breast milk has an important nutritional value for your infant, as well as superb immunological and emotional benefits. Unless a mother cannot breastfeed due to serious issues such as heavy medication, cancer treatment, mastectomy etc, she should breastfeed. And even if she can’t breastfeed she could still give her baby breast milk from kind donor moms in her area (visit breast milk sharing networks Human Milk 4 Human Babies and Eats On Feets for more info or to find a donor or a recipient in your area).*

Ideally, in the first 6 months of life your baby should not receive anything else but breast milk. Exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months is recommended by both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization. Sadly, only 16% of mothers get to this point citing lack of support & awareness as one of the biggest obstacles on their breastfeeding journey. Besides lack of support & awareness, the non-existence of a significantly long and paid federal maternity leave in the USA plays an important role in this issue (more on this topic later). Additionally, many US hospitals don’t support breastfeeding moms, discourage them and offer their babies formula and pacifiers. Sadly, this happens all the time. A hormonal mom who just gave birth last night and who still feels like a bulldozer rolled over her body, who is extremely emotional and cries after seeing a Dawn duck commercial is approached by a harsh nurse and is told she’s starving her baby because her milk hasn’t come in yet.  Unless you’ve done your research and you come to the hospital prepared and educated, you are likely to give in or even believe you are this horrible mother who starves her baby. For the record, colostrum is all a healthy baby needs in the first few days – it’s very nutritiously rich. Besides, the baby’s stomach is a size of a marble and does not have the ability to expand yet. So – no, mean nurse, she’s not starving her baby, she’s doing a great job. How about telling her that?

Perhaps this image from Babies First Lactation will help you visualize how small a newborn’s stomach is and how little in volume they need in the first couple of days.

size-of-a-newborns-stomach-v2-online

And keeping the baby on the breast in the first few days is so important to keep the baby happy & full and to achieve your long-term breastfeeding goals. So your best bet is to find a Baby Friendly hospital which adheres to the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative guidelines.

Here’s a list of things essential for successful breastfeeding outcomes published by National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality

{prenatal care}

  • educate and inform families
  • create a supportive environment

{delivery and postpartum}

{postnatal care}

  • encourage or establish support groups
  • connect to community resources
  • gather and evaluate feedback

Breastfeeding support and principles

* I followed these recommendations and educated myself and was able to achieve my breastfeeding goals. I breastfed my first son until 18 months when he weaned naturally, gradually and on his own (he was exclusively breastfed in the first 6 months). My second son is 5 months now and so far he hasn’t eaten anything but breast milk and he’s nice & chunky, weighing 20 pounds (an average 1-year old). Besides breastfeeding I have been pumping twice a day to boost my milk production and to have an emergency back up. I have been donating all breast milk my baby does not need to a young mom in our neighborhood and to my friends – a daddy duo who recently adopted their second daughter and decided to feed her breast milk. Kudos to them! 

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