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July 3, 2007 > Breastfeeding Encourages Healthy Development

Breastfeeding Encourages Healthy Development

There is a long list of actions new parents can take to make sure their little ones get the best start in life. One of the most important gifts new moms - and dads - can give their babies is breastmilk, according to Karen Smith, Washington Hospital's Maternal/Child Education Coordinator.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the organization "firmly adheres to the position that breastfeeding ensures the best possible health as well as developmental and psychosocial outcomes for the infant."
"Breastfeeding is the healthiest choice because it supports a healthy baby," Smith says. "At Washington Hospital, we want your baby to thrive. We want your baby to have the healthiest choice through breastfeeding or pumping mom's milk."
The hospital's Lactation Center provides outpatient support to new moms to help them learn how to effectively breastfeed. Contrary to popular belief, Smith says, breastfeeding is one of the things new moms need to practice to feel comfortable with it.
"Here's the piece of the puzzle that gets missed - every mom and baby is different," says Smith. "Moms assume they should have a maternal instinct for breastfeeding, so when they have trouble they sometimes feel inadequate. The reality is they have to learn to be a mom. Breastfeeding is a mothering skill; they are learning how to be moms. We are here to support the development of their mothering skills. We support them to be independent."
Giving new moms the support they need
If a breastfeeding mother encounters problems, the licensed outpatient lactation consultants at Washington Hospital's Lactation Center are available to offer guidance and support.
Each Tuesday and Friday, the Lactation Center holds a breastfeeding, or "latch," clinic to support brand new moms with infants up to a month old. During the hour-long clinic, a lactation consultant and a lactation counselor are there to help moms learn to nurse effectively. Especially for new moms that may think they are alone in experiencing problems breastfeeding, it's important to interact with other women that can help validate what they are feeling, Smith says.
On Wednesdays, the center holds a clinic for moms with babies older than a month. Smith encourages women with older babies to come to the Wednesday group if they have questions or concerns.
(See the box located on this page for a list of lactation services, dates and times.)
The latch clinics are free to all new moms regardless of whether or not they delivered their baby at Washington Hospital, Smith points out. Additionally, private outpatient consultations are available to all new moms for a small fee.
"We try to address a range of issues, not just breastfeeding," Smith says of the groups. "We address many baby-related issues - for instance, soothing babies who may not be hungry. If you find other people are telling you what do you, you think they know better. You know your baby best, and we're here to provide support for your independence.
A common problem new moms may encounter is discomfort because they haven't learned how to attach their baby properly to the nipple. Others may feel frustrated by pain or overall fatigue after childbirth. Smith says many new moms - and dads - run into problems because they have an "ideal" image of parenthood and when the baby comes every day issues become real and sometimes overwhelming.
Giving moms the choice
Another issue new mothers may face is a feeling that breastfeeding is not socially accepted, Smith explains. A goal of the hospital's lactation support services is to help mothers better understand and feel more comfortable choosing breastfeeding as a healthy and viable option.
"We're trying to support the community and really support and protect breastfeeding," Smith says. "A lot of women say they don't feel comfortable nursing because of the feeling that it's not accepted. Because industry and marketing have promoted the bottle so much the community sees bottle feeding as normal. Now breastfeeding is not the norm anymore. If you see bottle feeding as the norm, you feel you're doing something abnormal."
Benefits of breastfeeding
For mothers of premature babies that must remain in the hospital for advanced care at a special care nursery, Smith says breastmilk is doubly beneficial because by pumping milk for their babies it allows mothers to bond with their babies even if they cannot be close to them 24 hours a day. Nurses in the neonatal units, because of the benefits of breastmilk, often refer to it as "liquid gold."
Another benefit is that providing breastmilk to your infant need not exclude "Dad" from the process, according to Smith. That's where breast pumping comes in. By storing breastmilk for times when "Mom" isn't available, dads can readily step in and give their babies a bottle containing breastmilk. Washington's Lactation Center encourages breast pumping, offering low-cost breast pump rentals and sale of breast pumps and other breastfeeding accessories.
Perhaps most importantly, a mother's breastmilk has multiple health benefits for premature babies and can even help prevent dangerous health conditions, such as necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a common gastrointestinal disease that occurs in premature infants and can cause deterioration of the bowels. Breastmilk, Smith says, coats the lining of the intestines to prevent this from happening.
"Breastfeeding for even a month to six weeks can really make a difference," she says.
According to womenshealth.gov, a Web site of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services:
* Breastmilk is the most complete form of nutrition for infants. A mother's milk has just the right amount of fat, sugar, water, and protein that is needed for a baby's growth and development. Most babies find it easier to digest breastmilk than they do formula.
* As a result, breastfed infants grow exactly the way they should. They tend to gain less unnecessary weight and to be leaner. This may result in being less overweight later in life.
* Premature babies do better when breastfed compared to premature babies who are fed formula.
* Breastfed babies score slightly higher on IQ tests, especially babies who were born pre-maturely.
To learn more about services and programs available at Washington Hospital, visit www.whhs.com and click on "Services & Programs." To receive a free quarterly copy of the Health & Wellness Catalog, which contains a comprehensive list of services for the community, call (800) 963-7070.

Free Breastfeeding Support Services and Lactation Center

The Lactation Center at Washington Hospital offers outpatient support to breastfeeding and back to work moms with private visits, classes and clinics.
* Latch Clinic: Group support for positioning and latch. Tuesdays at 11 a.m. and Fridays at 11 a.m.
* Beyond Newborn Clinic: Wednesdays at 11 a.m.
* Prenatal Breastfeeding Class: Thursday, July 12 from 7 to 9:30 p.m.
* Back to Work Breastfeeding Class: Monday, July 23 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Center hours: Monday-Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Saturday, 1 to 5 p.m.
Where: 2299 Mowry Ave., Suite 2C, Fremont
Call: (510) 791-3423


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