Authors Sahira A. Long, MD, IBCLC, Jennifer A.F. Tender, MD, IBCLC, Division of General and Community Pediatrics and Lactation Consultants offer breastfeeding advice to new mothers.
When your baby is born, there are plenty of things to think about, and one of the first is how to feed your infant.
And that raises the question of breastfeeding.
We know you hear all kinds of advice, from relatives, friends, and neighbors. So many opinions are coming in your direction and really fast. Some people feel very strongly about the need for breastfeeding, and sometimes those who don’t breastfeed at all are the loudest, saying they felt it was uncomfortable or they didn’t have a convenient place to do it. As mothers ourselves, we have heard it all.
At Children’s National, we advocate for breastfeeding and are here to help support you if you are questioning what to do or how to navigate breastfeeding and the issues that may come with it. Somewhat concerning to us as advocates, our hometown of Washington, DC, lags behind the rest of the country in breastfeeding rates.
According to the 2014 Breastfeeding Report Card, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that about 79 percent of babies in the U.S. were breastfed, while the rate of breastfeeding in Washington, DC, is about 78 percent. In the District of Columbia, the rates of breastfeeding are much lower for African-American women and women living in poverty. The Report Card also revealed that the nation’s capital falls behind in the number of Certified Lactation Counselors with only 1.5 per 1,000 births versus the national average of 4 per 1,000 births.
Below you’ll find some of the benefits of breastfeeding, some of the issues you may have to navigate when choosing to breastfeed, and how you can find local support.
Benefits of breastfeeding
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breastfeeding because mother’s milk is the perfect food for the baby and gives the infant a healthy start in life. A word like “perfect” seems pretty strong, but research into breastfeeding supports this claim.
Good for your baby
Let’s start with the baby and his or her future health. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of childhood obesity, which is associated with other medical problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels. It also can reduce the risk of childhood infections, asthma, and even neonatal death.
Good for you
For moms, it reduces your risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Studies have proved that for every year of breastfeeding, a woman decreases her chances of getting breast or ovarian cancer by 4.3 percent.
The AAP recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of life and continued breastfeeding after solid foods are introduced to the diet until at least 12 months. This may seem like a long time to breastfeed; there are a number of societal pressures to stop breastfeeding earlier, particularly if you are a working mom, but keep in mind how good this is for not only your baby but also for you. We recommend setting short-term goals for breastfeeding and celebrating each one you reach; for example, making it through the first three weeks, then the first two months, and so on. We encourage and support any amount of breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding support in the Washington, DC, area
At Children’s National, we understand the importance of breastfeeding but also some of the difficulties that come with it, and we want to provide you with the caring support, knowledge, and encouragement you need.
We offer community lactation support services free of charge at the East of the River Lactation Support Center, a collaboration program between Children’s National, the Women Infants and Children Program (WIC), and the DC Breastfeeding Coalition. The lactation center is located at the Children’s Health Center - Anacostia. A lactation consultant or breastfeeding peer counselor can help you navigate through any discomfort you may be feeling, provide suggestions on how to help your baby feed, and advise on what to do if you feel you are not producing enough milk.
Other supportive organizations include the DC Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, and Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere.
Where can you breastfeed?
When you breastfeed, the area where you choose to do it should be as comfortable and convenient for you and the baby as possible. And that’s where it gets uncertain sometimes, particularly in the workplace and public places. No matter where you are, we want you to know there are national and local laws to protect your right to breastfeed. If you have any questions about breastfeeding, please let us know in the comments section below.
We were breastfeeding moms, too, and are really happy that we did. Now you have the tools to make an informed decision for yourself and your baby. We can’t emphasize enough the importance of breastfeeding to nurture strong, healthy babies.