By: Stephanie Duhon
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend that moms exclusively breastfeed their babies for at least the first six months, but preferably longer. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more moms are achieving that goal in the United States. In 2011, 14.8 percent of 6-month-old babies were exclusively breastfed in the U.S. That’s an increase of 4 percentage points since 2007.
But despite growing evidence of the benefits of breast milk for babies and increased efforts to offer support to moms, that’s still a small number and a recent study out of Scotland suggests increasing that percentage is not as easy as it sounds. According to the report, published in the journal BMJ Open, researchers interviewed 36 pregnant women and a significant other about what it would take to breastfeed exclusively and why the ones who stopped choose to do so. The report says some of the women said breastfeeding wasn’t the bonding experience they were expecting and was much harder than expected, while others said they lacked a support system.
I can definitely relate to women who planned to exclusively breastfeed and yet still struggled. While breastfeeding is indeed natural, it is far from easy for most women. Breastfeeding takes a lot of time, practice, commitment and support. I learned that I could be doing everything “right” and still encounter problems.
My daughter was born in September 2010 and I fully intended to exclusively breastfeed her for at least 6 months. I know the benefits of breastfeeding and was excited to be able to offer my daughter the very best. I took a class, I read up on nursing and what to expect and had access to an amazing lactation consultant. I knew going in that it may be a bit difficult at first, but I was terribly disappointed when breastfeeding turned out to be much harder than I expected. My daughter didn’t latch well and it took her a long time to nurse. Despite nursing for what seemed like forever sometimes, she was not gaining sufficient weight. Per doctor’s orders, I had to supplement her with formula because her weight was too low. I pumped, I took supplements such as fenugreek to increase my supply and I dealt with painful clogged ducts because my daughter wasn’t properly draining my milk supply. I was devastated and thought I was doing something wrong. Renee, the amazing lactation consultant at The Motherhood Center, was extremely supportive and showed me different nursing positions and helped me figure out how to effectively use the breast pump. Unfortunately, I was never able to get my supply up completely, so I had to supplement breastfeeding with formula, but with the amazing support of Renee, as well as my husband and friends, I am proud to say that I overcame some of the other early obstacles and was able to successfully feed my baby girl at least some breast milk for the first six months of her life.
The key aspect I learned from my experience is not to be afraid to ask for help. Women go through many emotions after having a baby and when you combine the hormonal changes, lack of sleep and commitment of breastfeeding, it can become overwhelming very quickly. The Motherhood Center has wonderful resources to help moms reach their breastfeeding goals. In addition to lactation consultants, TMC offers hospital grade breast pumps to rent and has a large variety of breastfeeding supplies, such as nursing tanks and bras, nipple cream, My Brest Friend nursing pillows, nursing covers and more. Experienced staff members can help you determine what you need and can also help you figure out the proper size of nursing tank or bra, which as many moms know can be difficult to figure out!
One thing that some people may not know is that The Motherhood Center also helps local businesses offer support to moms! You may have heard of some offices having a pumping room for moms. These rooms are invaluable for moms who need to pump at work. It gives them the opportunity to pump in private and not have to spend the 15-20 minutes pumping at their desk, in the bathroom or closet or in their car. Breastfeeding experts say to successfully pump, you have to be relaxed so your milk can let down. That’s hard to do if you are worried about someone entering the room mid-pump!
TMC founder Gabriela Gerhart says moms who have support from their employers not only have an easier time exclusively breastfeeding, which can cut down on medical costs because of the health benefits of breast milk, but they are also more productive because they don’t have to worry about finding time and space to pump during the day to feed their baby.
Are you an employer who wants to learn more about creating a pumping room? Call us at 713-963-8880 and ask us about our corporate membership and how we can help you help nursing moms at your office.