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To Your Health: Breastfeeding is easy decision but hard choice

Gail Gorecki  |  Supplied photo

Gail Gorecki | Supplied photo

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Updated: February 3, 2014 3:00PM



Several articles have been written in recent months outlining the benefits as well as patient concerns about the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative.

Policies including rooming-in and no formula supplementation have been criticized as being punitive to the new mother who is exhausted and prefers sending the baby to the nursery at night to allow her to sleep.

So why are health professionals so passionate about following these practices?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, breast milk is the most complete form of nutrition for infants, with a wide range of benefits for the infants’ health, growth, immunity and development.

A variety of studies have demonstrated that breastfeeding increases a child’s immunity to disease and infection and is a unique nutritional source that cannot be adequately replaced by any other food, including infant formula. Respiratory illnesses and diarrhea are far more common among formula-fed children, whereas breastfeeding has been shown to prevent recurrent ear infections.

Unfortunately, studies demonstrate that only about a third of mothers meet their goal of exclusive breastfeeding.

One of the most common reasons for a mother to supplement with formula is that she feels she does not have enough milk for her baby. However, when formula is given to the newborn, it is digested much slower than breast milk and the infant then will not feed as often.

Frequent breastfeeding is the best way for a new mother to establish and increase her milk supply. So by giving formula the first few days of the newborn’s life, unless medically indicated, the new mother actually is sabotaging her own body.

A mother also may think that she is not getting adequate sleep when her baby stays in the room around the clock. Recent studies demonstrate that moms who room-in actually get more sleep than those who send the baby back to the nursery.

Other benefits include the baby crying less and being easier to calm, a mother being able to respond to a baby’s feeding cues and she will be able to produce more breast milk in a shorter period of time.

It is suggested that a support person stay with the mother at night in the hospital room so she does not feel alone, and to limit visitors so the new mother feels comfortable when first breastfeeding.

The Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding were developed by breastfeeding experts and consist of evidence-based practices that have been shown to increase breastfeeding initiation and duration.

Baby-Friendly hospitals and birthing facilities must adhere to the Ten Steps to receive and retain a Baby-Friendly designation.

Hospitals play a vital role in the establishment of breastfeeding. The Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding provide a supportive pathway that enables women to achieve their breastfeeding intentions and guides the training of physicians, nurses and other health care workers in breastfeeding support.

Most hospitals in Illinois are working toward becoming designated a Baby-Friendly hospital. In June 2012, Illinois passed the Hospital Infant Feeding Act, which provides that every maternity hospital in Illinois shall adopt an infant feeding policy that promotes breastfeeding and follows guidance from the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative.

Having a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff and having training so staff can implement these strategies are included in Baby-Friendly steps 1 and 2.

Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn is using several strategies to promote breastfeeding immediately after birth, including the introduction of the BFF (Baby’s First Friend) role in labor and delivery. Staff nurses trained in newborn care are present after delivery to assess the baby and then help place the infant skin to skin on mother’s chest. If the mother is breastfeeding, the BFF will assist the mother with positioning and latching of the baby within the first hour of life as endorsed by Baby Friendly in step 5 of the 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding.

Baby Friendly step 10 encourages breastfeeding support groups and resources be made available to mothers upon discharge from the hospital or birth center. Advocate Christ Medical Center has a lactation center to rent or sell hospital-grade and personal breast pumps, as well as nursing bras and breastfeeding supplies.

Our lactation consultants are available seven days a week, 364 days a year to help any mother with breastfeeding problems or questions during her stay in the hospital. After discharge, all mothers who have delivered at Advocate Christ Medical Center are able to schedule an outpatient consultation with a certified lactation consultant free of charge to help support the breastfeeding experience.

For some mothers and babies, breastfeeding goes smoothly from the start. In other cases, it may take a little time and several attempts to become successful. Like anything new, practice is needed to become proficient.

The time spent in the hospital after delivery should be used to get the support and education a breastfeeding mother requires to become competent with feeding her new baby.

Gail Gorecki is a registered nurse and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. Advocate Christ Medical Center is a member of the Southland Health Alliance.



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