The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, “Breastfeeding Report Card – United States, 2012,” released August 1st, shows the largest annual increase in breastfeeding initiation over the previous decade.
“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,” said Michele Deck, Lamaze International president and childbirth educator. “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.”
“While breastfeeding is natural, it doesn’t always come naturally,” said Deck. “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.”
According to the CDC report, national improvements in hospital maternity care practices also 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. Lamaze points out the following top five breastfeeding barriers that may happen in the first 24 hours of birth:
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,” said Deck. “It’s about considering the scientific evidence and giving women the support they need to achieve 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.
The CDC report can be found here: http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/data/reportcard.htm.
To find out more about breastfeeding in the workplace, Deck also offers a Q&A video on breastfeeding options for working women here: http://bit.ly/N5tWkF.