August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month, so we talked with two lactation professionals about the current breastfeeding guidelines, common challenges and the best way a mom can find success in her breastfeeding endeavors. Here’s what Caroline Pillsbury, lactation coordinator at Brookwood Baptist Health Women’s Services in Birmingham, and Lacresha Busteed, RN, BSN, IBCLC, a lactation consultant at The Birth Center at TriStar Hendersonville Medical Center, had to say.
What are the current AAP guidelines for breastfeeding newborns?
Caroline Pillsbury: The AAP recommends “exclusive breastfeeding for approximately six months, followed by continued breastfeeding for one year or longer, as mutually desired by mother and child.” The bigger entity, The World Health Organization or WHO, “recommends mothers worldwide to exclusively breastfeed infants for the child’s first six months to achieve optimal growth, development and health. Thereafter, they should be given nutritious complementary foods and continue breastfeeding up to the age of two years or beyond.”
Lacresha Busteed: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) policy, “Breastfeeding and Use of Human Milk,” recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months with continued breastfeeding while complimentary foods are introduced. The AAP further recommends breastfeeding should continue for at least the first year of life and further, as long as both mother and child desire to continue. Here at The Birth Center, we encourage all our moms to follow the AAP guidelines for breastfeeding newborns.
What is the single most important thing a mom needs to know about breastfeeding?
CP: Breastfeeding is a “win-win” situation. Many mothers are aware now of the benefits breastmilk provides for their baby. In recent months, we have been surprised by the newer benefits for mothers we are learning about. Mothers benefit from a decreased risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes which is really important if they have had gestational diabetes themselves during pregnancy. Also, they have a lower risk of rheumatoid arthritis. So, mothers and their families can have even more confidence in their decision to breastfeed and their efforts in the process because we continue to learn about the amazing benefits.
LB: In my consults with new moms, we talk about the health benefits of breastfeeding. I highlight that breastfeeding reduces an infant’s risk of respiratory tract infections, ear infections, asthma and urinary tract infections. Breastfeeding also has many health benefits for the mother. To name a few, breastfeeding decreases a mother’s risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, cardiovascular disease, postpartum bleeding and postpartum depression. However, I think the single-most important thing a mom needs to know about breastfeeding is that it is one of the most rewarding things she will do as a new mom. I stress this point during all my consults. I encourage mothers to remember this during the late nights, early mornings and times she wants to quit. When a mom sets a breastfeeding goal, sticks through the tough times and reaches or even surpasses her goal, there’s no better feeling!
What is the biggest challenge you see in new moms who struggle with breastfeeding?
CP: We see that mothers find that breastfeeding does require a significant amount of energy in the beginning. Often, mothers put so much pressure on themselves to take care of everything they are used to doing without realizing how much they will need to decrease their activity and focus on getting to know their new baby in the first several days and weeks. Mothers have lots of success when they build a good support system, delegate chores and everyday details, and focus on establishing that special breastfeeding relationship with their baby. Mothers really get a lot of added benefit from having lots of skin to skin time in those early days with their baby.
LB: One of the biggest challenges I see in new moms struggling with breastfeeding is lack of support. In my opinion, support is a key ingredient to success with breastfeeding. At The Birth Center, we provide our mothers with several resources to ensure they have many avenues of support once they are discharged from the hospital. We welcome them to call our lactation office for support anytime issues arise. I strongly suggest a consult with a certified Lactation Consultant (I.B.C.L.C.) if there are concerns with infant’s weight gain, milk supply or mother’s comfort level with breastfeeding.
For general support, I encourage moms to reach out to local breastfeeding support groups, call Tennessee’s free 24/7 Breastfeeding Helpline, or contact a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor at their local WIC office. Often, it is a close friend or family member with breastfeeding experience that can provide the best support system for a new mom. I highly encourage moms to reach out to friends and family members and have their number on speed dial! In addition to having clinical and local resources available, having a close friend or family member in your corner cheering you on as you reach breastfeeding milestones can be a great encouragement and provide the support you need as you and your little one venture through your breastfeeding journey.
Is there a point at which you advise your patients that it’s ok to quit breastfeeding due to struggles and challenges?
CP: Deciding to stop breastfeeding is a very personal decision for a mother. It’s a fine line that we walk as we support and give information to mothers. We follow mothers for many weeks, months, and even years through phone calls, mom’s groups, and consults. We encourage moms not to quit on a bad day. Some days are very stressful and others days are bright and sunny in their journey. We try to give mothers the best support and management of their particular situation. If a mother has made the choice to stop breastfeeding for whatever reason, we support her in that process. We often provide information on slow weaning to prevent complications for mothers as well. We truly enjoy helping mothers reach their goals and consider it a privilege to share in their journey.
LB: As a Lactation Consultant, I am an advocate for mom, baby and the breastfeeding relationship. It is my duty to provide moms with the most recent evidence-based information and recommendations regarding breastfeeding. Once I know a mom has received adequate education, ample support and her concerns have been addressed, then I feel confident the mom can make an informed decision regarding how she chooses to continue feeding her baby. I never want a mom to quit breastfeeding without having all resources provided to her but the decision to quit is never mine to make. It is the mom’s decision how she chooses to feed her baby and that decision should not receive judgment regardless of the choice made. At The Birth Center, we ensure moms have all the information and support needed to make an informed decision on how best to feed their baby and then support their decision. Ultimately, it’s their choice.
To learn about resources available for breastfeeding moms, visit the La Leche League website at llli.org.