By: Liz Miller, RN, IBCLC, Certified Lactation Consultant, Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare
August marks National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, an initiative to promote, protect and support breastfeeding by women in our community and across the world.
One of the most personal decisions a mother can make surrounding the arrival of her little one is how to feed her new baby. At Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH), our goal is to equip every mom with the information she needs to make that important decision for herself and her baby and, in turn, to respect whatever that decision may be.
As the region’s only accredited Baby-Friendly Hospital, we employ evidence-based practices to help mom and baby bond and to promote safe feeding. In supporting expecting and new mothers both in and out of the hospital, we also educate women on the benefits of breastfeeding, working with them on an individual basis to help promote the evidence-based practice as an option.
The Benefits of Breastmilk
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding as the sole source of nutrition for infants for at least the first four to six months of life. While the act of breastfeeding provides invaluable bonding time for mom and baby, breastmilk itself has measurable benefits for both baby and mom. When available, human milk provides all of the nutrition a baby needs to grow and develop, including protein, fats, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and carbohydrates.
Benefits of breastmilk for babies include:
Benefits of breastfeeding for mom include:
Of course, a mother’s feeding preference for her baby is always respected. The skilled team in the Tallahassee Memorial Alexander D. Brickler, MD Women’s Pavilion teaches parents who plan to formula feed how to correctly prepare formula, as well as the correct techniques for bottle feeding.
Breastmilk in the NICU
Not all newborns are born ready to feed from the breast, especially babies who arrive prematurely and require care from our Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Likewise, new moms spend their own time healing in the hospital and are not always able to breastfeed their new little ones in the NICU immediately.
That being said, human milk is the ideal source of nutrition for these tiny babies, as it has all of the nutrients needed to help them continue to grow and develop. It’s been shown to improve both short-term outcomes – like decreasing the chance of infections and necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a leading cause of infant mortality in the US according to the Center for Disease Control – and long-term outcomes – like improving brain development and consequently IQ and memory skills later in childhood.
The secret to an adequate milk supply for a preterm infant, or any healthy infant that is unable to maintain a latch, is to trick the mother’s body into thinking that she is nursing a full-term, healthy infant through the use of a pump.
In rare occasions, due to a mother’s health, breastfeeding may not be a possibility at all. Luckily for those little ones, our NICU has access to donor milk, which provides another avenue for babies to receive the vital nutrients in breastmilk.
While breastfeeding is the most natural way to feed new babies, it’s not always the easiest. Our team of nurses and lactation consultants at TMH work tirelessly with mothers to help them find ways to feed that work best for them and their little ones.
Where a mom delivers has great influence on her success with breastfeeding, and working with hospital staff and nurses trained in working hands on with moms and babies can make a world of difference.
At TMH, our International Board-Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) have extensive training working with moms and babies. They have documented clinical hours, completed course work in lactation and have passed an exam that covers everything from anatomy to management of breastfeeding complications. Additionally, all registered nurses who work in the Women’s Pavilion are specially trained to help moms breastfeed by establishing a good latch, holding the baby in the correct positions and ensuring baby is receiving enough milk.
It is also very important for a community to have local breastfeeding support groups and outpatient services available to mothers once they are discharged from the hospital, both as a resource and a support system. Tallahassee Memorial offers:
Prenatal Breastfeeding Classes: Curriculum includes the importance of breastfeeding, benefits for mom and baby, how breastfeeding works, getting the best start and the importance of support.
Milk with Mommy: A free breastfeeding support group open to mothers in the community. The group meets twice a week and is led by a certified lactation consultant.
Outpatient Lactation Services
Mommy Market at A Woman’s Place: An intimate shop for moms to purchase breastfeeding supplies at affordable prices with the support of a knowledgeable staff.