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Federal Initiative Aims to Make Life Easier 4 Breastfeeding

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  1. Egyptian Doctor

    Egyptian Doctor  Moderator Verified Doctor

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    You've probably heard the saying, "It takes a village to raise a child." And last week, the U.S. Surgeon General reminded us all that it takes a community to support a mother who chooses to breastfeed that child. Unveiling the Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, MD, didn't try to talk mothers into breastfeeding, but rather urged communities to make things easier for women who do choose to breastfeed.

    Dr. Benjamin calls on everyone from doctors and nurses to business owners and employers to create atmospheres where mothers who want to breastfeed can do so successfully, without the misinformation and other sorts of roadblocks mothers commonly face today. "It's a wonderful opportunity to make sure that people understand the message: Record-high numbers of mothers are trying to breastfeed and want to breastfeed, and they are being prevented from succeeding," says Danielle Rigg, cofounder of the Best for Babes Foundation, the group that coined the phrase, "Beating the Breastfeeding Booby Traps!" "This is not a guilt thing. This is not a breast-versus-bottle issue. It's about giving mothers who want to breastfeed the support they need," Rigg adds.

    The details: Breastfeeding is viewed by many as the ultimate form of prevention, protecting against health ailments both immediately and in the long term. Studies overwhelming show that breastfed children enjoy many health benefits, including a decreased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), along with a reduced risk of obesity, ear and respiratory infections, GI disorders, type 1 and 2 diabetes, allergies, asthma, and leukemia later in life. Mothers who breastfeed receive benefits beyond bonding with the child, as well, including better heart health, a lower risk of breast and ovarian cancers, and less weight gain. "The research is there. The debate's over on that end," says Cathy Carothers, president of The International Lactation Consultant Association. Now, she says, the question is, "What are we going to do to support it? How are we going to break down those breastfeeding barriers?"

    The Surgeon General's campaign seeks to eliminate unnecessary struggles for breastfeeding mothers, ones making it difficult for a woman to access science-based information on the benefits of breastfeeding, or give birth in a hospital that's adequately staffed with properly qualified lactation consultants. In addition, employers without a good lactation policy, stores without comfortable and well-marked lactation areas for mothers who may not feel comfortable feeding in public, family members who swear by formula-feeding, and the general stigma of breastfeeding all serve as roadblocks that could prevent a women from meeting her personal breastfeeding goals. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, up to 75 percent of women leave the hospital breastfeeding, yet only 13 percent of infants are exclusively breastfed at the end of six months, which is the preferred feeding method for that age group endorsed by the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Often, women give up breastfeeding just days or after giving birth, long before heading back to work, says Rigg.

    Should breast milk be shared? Would you ever feed your child another woman's milk?

    What it means: So if most women say they want to breastfeed, and many of them leave the hospital breastfeeding, what exactly is going on in the days and weeks after? "They're giving up because they're having a miserable experience, physically and emotionally, because they were never given a proper education," says Bettina Forbes, cofounder of the Best for Babes Foundation.

    Here's how to break down common breastfeeding roadblocks.

    The block: Lack of information

    The workaround: It's best to learn as much as you can about breastfeeding before you give birth, so ask your OB-GYN about it. If your doctor isn't able to answer your questions, or seems to push formula, shop around for another doctor if you want to breastfeed your child. You can also schedule a pre-birth consultation with a lactation consultant, or tap into other reputable breastfeeding resources that are handy before and after delivery.

    The block: Lack of truly breastfeeding-friendly hospitals.

    The workaround: Only 3 percent of U.S. hospitals fall under the UNICEF/WHO's Baby Friendly Hospital initiative, a program that requires hospitals to adequately staff qualified lactation consultants, have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all healthcare staff, mandate staff to help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth, disallow pacifiers or artificial nipples for breastfeeding infants, and practice "rooming in," allowing moms and babies to remain together 24 hours a day. If there's not a Baby Friendly Hospital in your area, question facilities in your area to make sure there are adequately trained lactation consultants readily available.

    The block: Lack of board-certified lactation consultants.

    The workaround: Just because a hospital offers lactation consultants doesn't mean the consultants really know what they're doing when it comes to breastfeeding. In fact, some even push for formula feeding. Before giving birth, seek out a hospital that has adequately staffed lactation consultants certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners available around the clock, seven days a week.

    The block: Too many medical interventions.

    The workaround: When a healthy baby is born, he or she generally wants one thing, to feed from the mother. But Forbes says many hospitals are interfering with the baby's natural instinct, which could make breastfeeding more difficult. These interferences include taking the baby away immediately after birth for a bath or routine tests.

    "It's very frustrating to the baby. That baby is programmed to go from the womb to the breast. That's the only thing it wants, to latch on. It has a strong drive and need to connect and bond with mother," says Forbes. "Weighing, pricking, cleaning, and wrapping up in a burrito interferes with that."

    Breastfeeding has lots of great health benefits for baby, but did you know about the health benefits for mothers?

    She and Rigg urge breastfeeding mothers to fight for their right to be with their babies, and to stand firm on their 100-percent breast milk policy if nurses or doctors try to force supplemental formula on a healthy child. One way to sidestep this problem is to inquire about supplemental feeding and infant accommodations to help you choose a hospital that is in line with what you want.

    "Women are having to fight for the right to feed their babies the way that they want to," says Rigg, who recalls one mother's horror story of drinking formula so her baby wouldn't have to. Rigg says the hospital refused to discharge the mother and child unless the baby drank the bottle of supplemental formula.

    The block: Lack of information and support.

    The workaround: If you know you'd like to breastfeed, seek out family and friends who have successfully breastfed their children, and ask them what resources worked for them and which ones didn't. That might mean asking for recommendations on a certain class, hospital, or even breastfeeding technique. Congress also allocated $80 million last year to fund Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) peer-to-peer counseling services, so reaching out to your local WIC office is also a great option, suggests Carothers.

    The block: Well-meaning, know-it-all relatives.

    The workaround: Grandmothers, mothers, aunts, and sisters who formula-fed may try to push their way onto new mothers set on breastfeeding. And although they are likely well-meaning, Forbes says their arguments aren't based on science. "It's the society stigma of 70 years of not breastfeeding," she says. If you can't find breastfeeding support on the familial level, or even if you do and want to expand your network, look to websites like Le Leche League International or Best for Babes to connect with other breastfeeding moms.

    The block: A non-existent lactation program at work.

    The workaround: By providing accommodations for nursing mothers, employers providing strong lactation policies are rewarded with reduced healthcare costs as well as lower absenteeism and turnover rates. Dr. Benjamin also called for employers to establish paid maternity leave, and to allow nursing mothers to have their babies close by so they can feed them during the day.

    Check out How to Make Your Workplace Breastfeeding-Friendly for details on coping with a less than supportive workplace.

    The block: A lack of breastfeeding acceptance in retail environments.

    The workaround: While some stores proudly display the international breastfeeding symbol, not nearly enough others do, says Carothers. If your favorite stores don't have breastfeeding-friendly policies in place, make them aware of the Surgeon General's new report, and try shopping at more breastfeeding-friendly spots. Carothers says some malls have installed feeding areas in dressing rooms or even small store spaces for women who prefer a private place to breastfeed. More and more malls are also allocating spots for lactation consultant hours and baby caf
     

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