Breastfeeding rates across the country continue to climb, with nearly 77 percent of moms initiating breastfeeding – the largest annual increase over the previous decade – and increases in breastfeeding at six and twelve months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, “Breastfeeding Report Card – United States, 2012.” The report comes on the first day of World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7), and National Breastfeeding Month (August), annual events dedicated to raising breastfeeding awareness and removing the barriers to breastfeeding, both in the United States, and worldwide.
This encouraging increase shows that the evidence around the benefits of breastfeeding is compelling to pregnant women, and the health care providers and hospitals that care for them. Scientific research shows breastfeeding helps ensure babies are well nourished, protected against disease, and given the best chance to develop optimally. What women need most often is good information and support to get breastfeeding off to a good start, and to help them reach their breastfeeding goals.
According to the CDC report, there are also national improvements in hospital maternity care practices that support breastfeeding; however, the indicators show that there is room for improvement to ensure moms are getting the quality care that can help them reach their breastfeeding goals. Valuable resources and information for expecting parents, like Lamaze’s Push for Your Baby (www.PushForYourBaby.com), are aimed at giving expecting parents the tools to push for the best care practices for moms and babies, including those that support breastfeeding education and awareness.
While breastfeeding is natural, it doesn’t always come naturally. Many moms have difficulties establishing breastfeeding and some of this may be due to birth practices that aren’t the best for moms and babies. Pregnant women can help to push for the best birth and breastfeeding experiences by using childbirth education to understand the most common barriers and how to navigate them.
In honor of breastfeeding awareness, Lamaze calls out the following top five breastfeeding barriers within the first 24 hours of birth to help expecting moms prepare for the best breastfeeding experience:
1. Unnecessary birth interventions: While there are many unknowns during the birthing process, women can seek maternity care practices backed by science that can make birth safer and healthier. Fetal monitors, confinement to bed, artificially starting or speeding up labor and cesarean surgery can make birth more difficult and lead to a harder start for breastfeeding. For example, women whose babies are delivered by cesarean surgery can face a delay before the mature milk comes in. Pregnant women can find more information about reducing these and other challenges in childbirth by visiting Lamaze’s Push for Your Baby resources at: www.lamaze.org/ChildbirthChallenges.
2. Separating mom and baby: Abundant evidence shows that mother-baby, skin-to-skin care beginning right after birth and continuing uninterrupted, for at least one hour, or until after the first feeding for breastfeeding women, helps mothers, babies and breastfeeding. Skin-to-skin care helps a mom feel more confident, respond more quickly to her baby’s needs, reduces stress and makes breastfeeding easier. There are also clear benefits for babies: they breastfeed sooner, longer and more easily, they cry less, have more stable temperatures and blood sugar levels, have lower levels of stress hormones, and adjust more easily to life outside of the womb.
3. Use of pacifiers or other artificial nipples before breastfeeding is well established: Does the hospital nursery use pacifiers or bottle-feed babies without need? It’s an important question for expecting parents to ask. Studies show that early pacifier use may interfere with breastfeeding, and could decrease mom’s ability to exclusively breastfeed and reduce the duration of breastfeeding. Artificial nipples should be avoided until breastfeeding is well established (after about four weeks).
4. Supplementing breastmilk with formula: Breastmilk is best for babies. Formula simply does not provide the added nutritional and health benefits of breastmilk that’s naturally packed with antibodies, and should not replace formula unless there is a compelling medical reason to do so. Even the few days following birth are vitally important. The breasts produce a vital substance called colostrum, which protects the baby from illnesses and provides important nutrients.
5. Lack of postpartum breastfeeding support: Many new moms need breastfeeding support after hospital or birth center discharge. Support may include: a home visit or hospital postpartum visit, referral to local community resources, follow-up telephone contact, a breastfeeding support group, or an outpatient clinic. This is a good time for a mom to talk about any challenges she may be having, and get the help she needs to give her baby the healthiest start.
While breastfeeding decision-making can spark controversy among moms, improving breastfeeding awareness is not about passing judgment. It’s about considering the scientific evidence and giving women the support they need to achieve their breastfeeding goals.
As part of World Breastfeeding Week, Lamaze International is partnering with the world’s leading dedicated juvenile products retailer, Babies“R”Us®, to host in-store events nationwide, where new and expectant moms will have the opportunity to learn valuable information and practical tips on how to prepare for a successful breastfeeding experience. The “Nursing Basics for New Moms” events will take place on August 4 at 1:00 p.m. local time. For more information about the events, customers can click here: http://bit.ly/bA3XTR.
Michele Deck, Lamaze International president and childbirth educator. Lamaze International promotes a natural, healthy and safe approach to pregnancy, childbirth and early parenting practices. Knowing that pregnancy and childbirth can be demanding on a woman’s body and mind, Lamaze serves as a resource for information about what to expect and what choices are available during the childbearing years. Lamaze education and practices are based on the best and most current medical evidence available. Working closely with their families, health care providers and Lamaze educators, millions of pregnant women have achieved their desired childbirth outcomes using Lamaze practices. The best way to learn about Lamaze’s steps to a safe and healthy birth is to take a class with a Lamaze certified instructor. To find classes in your area, or for more information visit: www.lamaze.org. For more information visit: www.PushForYourBaby.com.