Lactation consultants at WMCHealth are here to help new moms with the challenges of breastfeeding.
By Mary McIver Puthawala, RN, BSN
Studies show that breastfeeding benefits both mother and baby. But just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while four out of five infants born in 2013 started off breastfeeding, only half were doing so at six months, and less than one-third at 12 months. Through its team of lactation consultants, the Westchester Medical Center Health Network (WMCHealth) offers a host of educational and support services. Here, three of these consultants — Rhonda Valdes-Greene RN, MSN, IBCLC, Westchester Medical Center and Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital; Amy Fotino, RN, IBCLC, St. Anthony Community Hospital; and Johanna Hagelthorn, BS, RNC, C-EFM, IBCLC, the Family Birth Place at HealthAlliance Hospital: Broadway Campus — share their expertise.
How does a new mom get started breastfeeding? And how can a working mother prepare to continue when she returns to work?
Valdes-Greene: Holding your baby skinto-skin as soon as possible after birth is the best way to get off to a good start! Then, hold your baby skin-to-skin daily after that. This contact actually helps moms produce an adequate supply of milk, and it helps regulate your baby’s temperature and blood sugar and reduces crying. Breastfeeding your baby when he/ she shows you feeding cues and avoiding bottles and pacifiers in the early days and weeks is helpful. When preparing to return to work, begin pumping and bottle-feed with your milk, so your baby learns how to drink from a bottle when you’re gone. At Westchester Medical Center, we help mothers obtain breast pumps for home use through their medical insurance. Nearly all mothers will have a pump when they need it with no additional copay.
What are the challenges of breastfeeding?
Fotino: Breastfeeding can be hard, and many mothers don’t have a lot of experienced support people around them. Plus, the internet can be overwhelming, especially with misinformation. It helps to set short-term goals. First, aim to get through a day of breastfeeding, and then through the weekend. Then, to the next pediatrician’s visit. Before you know it, the little goals add up. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization all recommend the ultimate goal of breastfeeding for 12 months or more. Also, finding a good group of supportive breastfeeding moms is crucial. Friends, aunts, grandmothers, mothersin-law or community mothers groups are great. The Kennedy Birthing Center at St. Anthony Community Hospital offers a monthly prenatal breastfeeding education class. After birth, the hospital offers a weekly breastfeeding support group. Plus, St. Anthony Community Hospital sponsors “The Big Latch On” in Warwick, an annual, international breastfeeding awareness event.
Should a new mother try “rooming in” to help with breastfeeding?
Hagelthorn: Maternity practices have changed to include “rooming in,” in which a newborn stays with the mother in a postpartum room rather than a nursery. This helps increase the mother’s confidence in handling and caring for her baby, and she can learn the baby’s early feeding cues. Infants love to be near their mothers. They are less distressed and cry less. They also tend to breastfeed sooner, longer and more easily. Babies generally also develop more regular sleep-wake cycles earlier, and it may help ease the transition to day/night routines. There is also less likelihood of postpartum depression, and both parents are usually more rested by the end of the first week home. Many HealthAlliance Family Birth Place nurses are certified lactation counselors (CLCs) and can help new mothers to establish breastfeeding. HealthAlliance also offers a free weekly mothers’ support group.