Personalized support can be the key to successful breastfeeding
Breastfeeding offers a wide array of benefits to both babies and mothers, There are numerous health advantages associated with breastfeeding.These include physical, nutritional and emotional benefits for the wellbeing of both mother and baby. From proven protection and lower risks against common childhood infections to the lower risk of certain diseases for both mother and baby.
This seemingly simple practice doesn’t always come easily, but the right support can empower a mother to gain confidence and find success with nursing. A Mother’s Perspective Doula Services provides physical, emotional and educational support to women before, during and after birth to make sure mom and baby aren’t just surviving this exciting transition, but thriving and building lasting bonds and memories.
Built into the work that A Mother’s Perspective doulas do with new mothers is education and support for breastfeeding.
Danielle Elhabbal, a birth and postpartum doula with A Mother’s Perspective, knows first-hand how important strong early support can be to breastfeeding success.
Twenty-five years ago, when Elhabbal had the first of her nine children, breastfeeding wasn’t a common practice in her family, and “in fact they were discouraging me from breastfeeding. I really knew nothing about it,” she said.
It was the support and encouragement of her husband and family friends that gave her the confidence to try to breastfeed her firstborn—although she admits to secretly buying bottles out of fear she wouldn’t succeed.
“I did have some struggles there in the beginning,” she recalls, “But my husband encouraged me, I powered through and I really gained confidence as a woman and a mother.” To know that your body is both amazing and empowering.
Since then, Elhabbal has logged 20 years of breastfeeding among her nine children—at times nursing multiple children. She considers nursing to be a gift that she wants to help more women experience and enjoy with their own infants.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
Elhabbal will never forget the bonds that formed between her and each of her children as she experienced the importance of immediate skin-to-skin contact and of nursing them as newborns. This early contact promotes a mother’s milk supply and triggers the release of feel-good hormones that help both mom and baby bond during the early newborn period. It is such a vulernerable and wonderful time. Support is so crucial for those early days with a newborn.
But even if nursing isn’t possible the moment after birth, such as in the case of an emergency C-section, new moms can still expect to experience the joys and benefits of nursing—it’s all about having the right support and resources.
“Nothing is ever perfect,” Elhabbal encourages mothers to remember. “We have to work with what we’ve got and keep moving forward. The end goal is having a successful breastfeeding experience, and that can be achieved many ways.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend that infants be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life, and then continue breastfeeding while introducing age-appropriate foods for up to 2 years of age or longer.
For mothers extended Breastfeeding, longer than 6 months, has been linked to a decreased risk of breast cancers, ovarian cancer, high blood pressure, and type II diabetes in women, and has been shown to limit postpartum bleeding, promote weight loss, and help reduce stress and postpartum mood disorders.
Breastfed babies have been shown to have stronger immune systems, and be less prone to ear infections, allergies, eczema, asthma, and gastrointesinal problems.. There is also lower risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Preparation is Power
Elhabbal loves the experience of explaining to new mothers in prenatal visits all of the benefits breastfeeding that occur within their own bodies. From the release of feel good hormones prolactin and oxytocin that help with bonding as well as postpartum bleeding and, and also help moms feel more relaxed and less stress. Additionally the increase of antibodies and white blood cells in your breastmilk to help babies fight infection. Breastfeeding also burns and additional 400-600 calories per day which can also help with postpartum weight loss.
“Their faces just light up—it gives them a level of excitement,” she said.
She helps them become acquainted with the vast number of resources that exist for breastfeeding mothers today, from helpful products for breastfeeding moms, to support groups, books, podcasts and insrtuctional YouTube videos, to lactation consultants who can assist them in the hospital or during the postpartum period should they need more than basic breastfeeding support.
She also equips them with tangible tools that will help promote breastfeeding success when they bring baby home—such as knowledge of comfortable and effective nursing positions, the importance of a deep latch, hydration, rest, and nutrition. Also helping them to set up a breastfeeding station with everything they need in a convienent location so the focus can be on rest, healing and settling into a good breatfeeding routine through those early days of nursing.
“Half the battle is knowing what to expect, having realistic expectations in those early days and also to know what the potential problems are and to know what to do if you encounter them,” she said.
Elhabbal knows how difficult it can be to keep persevering through the challenges of breastfeeding amid the sleep deprivation and stress of bringing a new baby home. This is where the personalized doula A Mother’s Perspective provides can make a huge difference.
Her biggest job in working with postpartum mothers is to listen.
“When I go in to support a breastfeeding mother, I am asking, ‘What’s going well? How do you feel? How is your nighttime routine?’ And then I just really take the time to listen,” she said. “A lot of times I will get the answer hallway through a conversation—I’ll hear something that gives me that window I need to work through scenarios and offer suggestions to make her breastfeeding experience better or more efficient. A lot of times it’s also hearing what isn’t being said.”
As a doula, Elhabbal also supports new mothers by providing another set of hands,helping to care for baby, meal preparation, organization,performing light housework, and just generally giving mothers whatever support they need so that they can heal,rest and have the energy to enjoy the fleeting newborn period. Doulas also help partners participate in caring for baby and can give suggestions on the best ways to support new mothers.
“I think in generations past we had more multigenerational families, and women were able to draw on support there,” she said. “Times have changed and we don’t have as much of that, and that is one instance where a doula can come in and fill that role, and answer those questions for first-time parents.”
A Mother’s Perspective offers doula support for women at every stage of pregnancy and the post-partum period. To learn more, visit mothersperspective.com.
Stay tuned to the Fredericksburg Parent & Family YouTube and Facebook channels this month for a video interview featuring A Mother’s Perspective Doula Services.