Mothers know that when it comes to feeding their babies, breast milk is
good for their child in many ways. But breastfeeding isn't always
easy--many new mothers face difficulties with milk production, latching
and other issues that can lead to frustration or giving up on the process
entirely.That's why National Breastfeeding Month, observed each August,
not only promotes the health benefits of breastfeeding, but also encourages
women to seek out help and support if they are struggling.
"There are so many wonderful things about breastfeeding--it's
free, it's a terrific nutritional source for babies that's healthy
for both mother and child, and it's a time of bonding. So it can be
heartbreaking for new moms who are having problems breastfeeding, especially
if they feel they don't have a place to turn to for resources and
Maureen Villasenor, MD, a board-certified pediatrician at
St. Joseph Heritage Medical Group and a mother of three. "That's why St. Joseph Health offers programs
through its various ministry hospitals to help families have a successful
Before the baby arrives, expectant moms should look into the breastfeeding
services offered at the hospital where they choose to give birth. Many
facilities, such as
Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital offer breastfeeding classes as part of an education series for pregnant
women, so they feel prepared for when the baby is born. For moms who can't
make it to class in person, online breastfeeding prep courses are available,
such as the one at
St. Jude Medical Center.
Moms-to-be may also want to purchase supplies, such as nursing bras or
breast pumps, before the birth. "See if the hospital has a store
carrying those items, such as the Stork Stop Boutique run by
St. Joseph Hospital, Orange," Dr. Villasenor says. "Women should also check their health
plans, as the Affordable Care Act calls for insurance coverage for breastfeeding
equipment, as well as any support needed after the baby is born."
Post-delivery, the hospital should also offer breastfeeding assistance.
"This is an ideal time for mothers to have questions answered and
for a lactation specialist to assess latch and nursing positions, and
make any corrections, if necessary," Dr. Villasenor says. "Many
of St. Joseph's ministries are Baby-Friendly Hospitals, and others
are working toward that designation. This certification means that the
hospital is committed to optimal breastfeeding support. That includes
having a written policy on breastfeeding and ensuring all staff members
are trained according to its guidelines, helping mothers breastfeed within
an hour of giving birth, and allowing mothers and babies to share a recovery
room so breastfeeding can take place at any time."
Mom isn't on her own once she and the baby come home from the hospital.
"Women should know how to track their baby's feedings to make
sure the newborn is getting enough breast milk," Dr. Villasenor says.
"They can get this information from their doctor or hospital nursing
staff, as well as a log to keep track of feedings. Generally, infants
should nurse eight to 12 times per day, for as long as needed at each
breast. Physical signs that babies are eating enough include the number
of wet diapers they go through each day (one for each day of life, when
nutrition comes from the mother's colostrum, then six to eight once
the mother's breast milk comes in), good skin color and alertness.
Babies should also be gaining weight, up to 7 ounces per week, which can
be checked during pediatrician visits."
If their infant isn't meeting those benchmarks, or women are having
problems such as sore nipples or inadequate milk production, they shouldn't
hesitate to get help. Some St. Joseph Health ministry hospitals offer
personalized breastfeeding assistance. For instance, breast pump demonstrations
and breastfeeding support groups facilitated by a lactation consultant
are offered by
Queen of the Valley Medical Center. And at the Childbirth Center at
Redwood Memorial Hospital, lactation help is just a phone call away. Moms can call the Breastfeeding
Care Line with any questions, and their call will be answered within 24
hours by one of the center's lactation consultants.
"There are so many avenues of support out there that women who choose
to breast feed their baby should be confident that they can get the help
they need," Dr. Villasenor says. "It may require working through
some issues, but it's well worth it in the end--for both the mother
and the child."
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