Babies who are breastfed are at a reduced risk of hospitalizations, ear infections, diarrhea, respiratory infections, obesity, diabetes, asthma, eczema, sudden infant death syndrome and leukemia. There are many benefits for mom too: mothers who breastfeed reduce their risk of diabetes, certain cancers, osteoporosis, postpartum depression and heart disease. They also burn 300-500 extra calories each day.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, World Health Organization and United States Surgeon General all recommend breastfeeding as the superior choice for feeding infants. In support of Breastfeeding Awareness Month, CHoR pediatrician Dr. Gauri Gulati put together the following list of recommendations outlining the important steps to follow, both before and after a baby is born, for breastfeeding success. CHoR is proud to be part of VCU Medical Center, which was recently awarded a Baby-Friendly Hospital designation for providing an exceptional level of attention to newborn feeding and mother-baby bonding. Fewer than 10 percent of U.S. hospitals have been designated “Baby-Friendly” and VCU Medical Center is the only hospital in the Greater Richmond area to have received this accreditation.
Breastfeeding Tips: Steps to Success and Resources for Support
Prepare, Network, Start Right Away & Accept Support
Human milk has been scientifically proven to provide babies with all the nutrients needed to grow into healthy children but while many women choose to breastfeed, it does not always come naturally. Planning ahead and having support can help. Here are a few tips and recommendations for breastfeeding success:
- Learn as much as you can about breastfeeding before you give birth. Breastfeeding is a process that needs to be learned. Many hospitals offer classes to support expectant parents, including breastfeeding, childbirth, newborn parenting, grand parenting and sibling classes.
- Talk with your health care provider about your desire to breastfeed. Make sure your health care provider is aware of your medical and medication history to help you plan for breastfeeding success.
- Establish a breastfeeding support network which may include family, friends, health care providers, WIC breastfeeding peer counselors, La Leche League or anyone who will positively influence your breastfeeding success. (WIC is the name for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children.)
WHILE IN THE HOSPITAL
- Make sure all health care providers are aware of your plans to breastfeed.
- Place your baby skin to skin and breastfeed within the first hour of your infant’s birth.
- Plan to breastfeed at least 8-12 times in a 24-hour period in the first few days of life. In the first few days of life, your baby’s tummy is about the size of a marble. In this time period, infants do not require large amounts of breast milk. It is important to feed frequently and on demand. Ask to have your baby in the room with you so you can observe your baby’s hunger cues and then feed on demand.
- Have a lactation consultant (find a lactation consultant) or nurse check how your baby latches on when you begin a feeding so they can offer advice about how to minimize any discomfort.
- Don’t expect overnight perfection. There will be times when your infant may not latch perfectly. It’s OK. Take a break and try again. You are both learning!
- Your baby does not need water or other sources of nutrition unless there is a medical issue. Your baby’s health care provider will let you know if anything other than breast milk is needed. Introducing anything other than breast milk at this stage may reduce chances of breastfeeding success.
WHEN AT HOME
- Have a place where you can feed that is comfortable for both you and your baby and make sure you are drinking plenty of water and keeping yourself well nourished.
- The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends scheduling an appointment with your baby’s health care provider at 3-5 days of age. Close follow-up can help identify and minimize breastfeeding issues.
- With a newborn, things are changing every day and new breastfeeding questions may arise. If you have questions or concerns, have your infant’s health care provider observe a breastfeeding session or refer you to someone who is trained in breastfeeding support to help.
- Seek out breastfeeding support groups if you think they would be helpful. Ask your health care provider to direct you to these groups.
- Take advantage of the support of family and friends to help you with daily chores so you can concentrate on successfully breastfeeding your baby.
Every baby and breastfeeding experience is different. Don’t compare yourself with others. Babies have different nursing styles. Some like to eat quickly and others take their time. What matters most is that your baby is gaining weight and growing appropriately.
– Dr. Gauri Gulati, mother of three, CHoR pediatrician and board certified lactation consultant
- Have patience. It may take a few weeks to months for breastfeeding to be well established.
- Talk with your employer about your plans to continue breastfeeding. They can provide you with a safe, clean and private place to pump. Prior to returning to work, talk with your child care provider and WIC to enlist their support for continuing to provide breast milk for your baby.
- Exclusive breastfeeding for six months, with continuation for one year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant, is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and ideal for giving a baby the best start in life.
More on the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative
The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) recognizes and awards organizations that successfully implement the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding and the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes. The BFHI assists hospitals in giving all mothers the information, confidence and skills necessary to successfully initiate and continue breastfeeding their babies, or feeding formula safely, and gives special recognition to hospitals that have done so, according to Baby-Friendly, USA, Inc.
VCU Medical Center was awarded this recognition in May 2015. VCU Medical Center’s staff works as a team to help mothers establish the closest possible bond with their newborns by supporting them in breastfeeding their newborn. In addition to the hospital’s bedside staff, specially trained in breastfeeding assistance, VCU Medical Center and CHoR offer the support of lactation consultants available on-site seven days a week. Breastfeeding support also extends beyond the mother’s hospital stay, providing services such as an outpatient lactation clinic, lactation support groups and follow-up phone calls. Prenatal breastfeeding classes are available to expectant parents. A complete schedule of Family Life Education classes is available at VCUmom.com.