Two area lactation consultants share insights during National Breastfeeding Month
By Rhiannon Ellis
August is National Breastfeeding Month, kicked off by World Breastfeeding Week from August 1-7. Throughout the month, women across the globe honor and celebrate the benefits of breastfeeding and support the need to de-stigmatize it for today’s culture.
Breastfeeding remains one of the oldest and most natural parenting practices—also one of the most stigmatized.
Our ancestors not only breastfed, sometimes even exclusively when food was scarce, but they did it longer. Some studies suggest that unless these mothers gave birth again, they continued nursing their children until age 4. This far exceeds the U.S. breastfeeding average of six months.
But the world is a different today, and mothers need a village of support. Jennifer Woodhead, a birth doula, childbirth educator and Founder of A Mother’s Perspective, says what working moms need most is understanding and a flexible employer.
“Most moms I’ve talked to appreciate not working in the early evening. This will allow mom to get more sleep, and babies tend to just want to be at the breast in the evening,” she says.
Federal law requires employers to provide reasonable break time for up to one year for nursing employee who wish to express milk for her child. This also means dedicated space within the office.
“Moms will also need a clean, comfortable and private place to pump at work,” adds Woodhead.
While it seems like a lot to ask of an employer, breastfeeding benefits their business.
“Mothers who provide babies with milk are less likely to need time off due to a sick child,” explains Caroline Conneen, a certified family nurse practitioner and lactation consultant at Kidschoice Pediatrics, and author of “Latching Well: Breastfeeding with an Integrative Approach.”
“Your breast milk is specifically made for your baby. Breastmilk contains live cells and antibodies, offering a passive immunity that mom has built.”
Whether or not mothers work outside the home, the initial period after returning home from the hospital is critical to a successful feeding journey.
“It’s incredibly helpful to have someone unobtrusively help by taking care of household tasks and watching other children. This allows mom to bond with her baby, establish a breastfeeding routine, and recuperate during this fragile period,” urges Woodhead.
She adds that friends can help provide much-needed emotional support during this transition.
“Moms need to be able to talk to someone about [their] feelings without fear of being judged,” Woodhead advises.
Mothers should also know professional help is available beyond the hospital.
“Even when breastfeeding goes well in the hospital, things can quickly fall apart once at home,” says Woodhead. “Doulas always follow up with moms in the first few days and weeks, once they get back home.”
Doulas and lactation consultants can assist with a range of issues, such as proper latching, positioning, and soreness. Some mothers find it handy to keep some reading material nearby that they can consult anytime, day or night. In her newly released book, Conneen shares “unique but tried and true” methods to breastfeeding. She discusses several relevant topics, including nutrition and lactation.
Even the public can support nursing moms.
“When you see a mother breastfeed in public, share an understanding smile, or look the other way if it makes you uncomfortable,” encourages Conneen.