August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month

The first week of August is World Breastfeeding Week, a week established by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) that kickstarts Breastfeeding Awareness Month.

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WABA coined the theme of this year’s World Breastfeeding Week to be Foundation of Life. They suggest that breastfeeding helps prevent malnutrition, ensure food security, and help break the cycle of poverty. In addition, breastfeeding can help lower the risk of infant death. We at Healthier Moms and Babies encourage our moms to breastfeed their babies for these reasons and more.

Breastmilk is full of important nutrients, some of which can’t be found in formula. The first feed after birth is filled with colostrum, nicknamed liquid gold for its rich properties and gold color; it’s high in protein, full of antibodies, and complete with a mild laxative to help pass the first stool. Even after that first feed, breastmilk is proven to help develop vital organs and satisfy baby’s hunger and thirst. The mammary glands will also help adjust to baby’s immune system, helping prevent disease and sickness.

Both the CDC and World Health Organization support the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding (the important points in the relationship between health care providers and mothers), as follows:

1a. Comply fully with the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and relevant World Health Assembly resolutions.

1b. Have a written infant feeding policy that is routinely communicated to staff and parents.

1c. Establish ongoing monitoring and data-management systems.

2. Ensure that staff have sufficient knowledge, competence and skills to support breastfeeding.

3. Discuss the importance and management of breastfeeding with pregnant women and their families.

4. Facilitate immediate and uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact and support mothers to initiate breastfeeding as soon as possible after birth.

5. Support mothers to initiate and maintain breastfeeding and manage common difficulties.

6. Do not provide breastfed newborns any food or fluids other than breast milk, unless medically indicated.

7. Enable mothers and their infants to remain together and to practice rooming-in 24 hours a day.

8. Support mothers to recognize and respond to their infants’ cues for feeding.

9. Counsel mothers on the use and risks of feeding bottles, teats and pacifiers.

10. Coordinate discharge so that parents and their infants have timel y access to ongoing support and care.

With many things in pregnancy, breastfeeding can bring stress and guilt. The CDC released a study that found that while over 75% of mothers started breastfeeding, only 16% continued exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months. In this Today article, they highlight the 532 first-time moms who were interviewed for this study. In these interviews, “women raised 49 unique breastfeeding concerns, a total of 4,179 times.”

With all the stress that breastfeeding can cause, it’s important as medical professionals, past mothers, family, and friends to support and encourage; we can offer suggestions as suggestions are needed, but in the end, respect the wishes of the mother. Even if the wishes are to stop breastfeeding.

While breastfeeding has proven to be beneficial for babies, it’s not for everyone. One blogger highlights her trials and tribulations with breastfeeding (including three painful cases of mastitis). She relays that the guilt and shame drove her to continue to try to breastfeed, despite the excruciating pain; but you always have a choice.

Ultimately, breastfeeding is a mom’s choice. It’s a recommendation, but not a requirement. A mom who chooses not to breastfeed should in no way be shamed or harassed any more than a mother who chooses to breastfeed should. We should encourage breastfeeding, but above all else, encourage a happy, healthy mom and baby.