A pediatrician’s thoughts on breast feeding

Breast-feeding may be thought of as a natural function that every mother would be able to do without preparation or support. Unfortunately, this is not the case for many women in our modern culture. Successful breast-feeding requires education, support and an environment that values and understands breast feeding.

One of the most important people to influence the mother’s decision to breast-feed is the baby’s father. Breast-feeding education programs especially during the prenatal period are most effective when they include the father to provide critical encouragement and emotional support. Most parents make their decision to breast feed or not before the baby is born.

A few facts about breast-feeding

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation for exclusive breast-feeding is six months and continues until the baby is 1 year old. It is very important to feed the baby as soon as the baby is born since colostrum is very important for the babies.

Mothers may continue their prenatal vitamins during breast-feeding.

Mom should drink plenty of fluids since breast milk has 70 percent water in it. Mom needs extra 500 calories during breast-feeding so there is no need for mom to diet during this time. All breast-fed babies need vitamin D supplementation of 400 IU (international units) daily.

With breast-feeding it is always demand feeding, the more the baby sucks at the breast the hormone oxytocin is released and more breast milk is produced.

A baby’s tendency to spit up is reduced as the breast milk is very thin and passes through the stomach in 30 minutes that helps prevents reflux.

There are few medical conditions and medications that mom takes that may prevent her from breast-feeding. Mom’s physician and the pediatrician should be able to help the mom in making the decision.

Typically the primary reason for breast feeding failure is when mom is anxious and has concerns about whether she will be able to produce enough milk and whether her baby is going to gain weight. However, it is important to remember there are a lot of resources available for mom to accomplish effective breast-feeding.

The earlier the better

To encourage early breast-feeding by the baby, minutes after birth the child is placed on the mother’s chest. There are now many studies that show that mothers and babies should be together, skin to skin (baby naked, not wrapped in a blanket) immediately after birth. The baby is happier, the baby’s temperature is more stable and more normal, the baby’s heart and breathing rates are more stable, bonding with baby and breast feeding with increased success begins.

Another tip for success is “rooming-in.” Keeping the baby in the birthing room with the parents as much as possible allows them to learn to care for their baby while in the hospital with the assistance of the nurses. Mom can learn baby’s queues, when the baby stirs she can immediately breast-feed. Though, not mandatory, if mom is too tired to keep an eye on the baby and there is no one else staying with her, the nurses may suggest that the baby be taken to the nursery for a period of time. Safety of the baby is always important.

A woman’s decision to breast-feed is one that has far-reaching benefits that include the infant’s and her own health as well as socioeconomic benefits to society.

According to the United States Breastfeeding Committee, breast-feeding is universally endorsed by the world’s health and scientific organizations as the best way of feeding infants. Breast-fed children:

score higher on cognitive and IQ tests and also on tests of visual acuity,

have a lower incidence of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS),

are less likely to suffer from infectious illnesses and their symptoms (e.g., diarrhea, ear infections, respiratory tract infections, meningitis),

have a lower risk of the two most common inflammatory bowel diseases (Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis),

suffer less often from some forms of cancer (e.g., Hodgkin’s disease, childhood leukemia),

have a lower risk of juvenile onset diabetes, when there is a family history of the disease and the children are breast-fed exclusively for at least 4 months,

are significantly protected against asthma and eczema, when at risk for allergic disorders and breastfed exclusively for at least four months,

may have a lower risk of obesity in childhood and in adolescence and

have fewer cavities and are less likely to require braces.

Breast-Feeding and Beyond is a class held for moms and their support person at Trinity Regional Medical Center. Moms can enroll in the course before and/or after the birth of their child. The process of breast feeding, as well as some insight on the challenges mom might encounter while breast feeding are discussed. The instructor is Robin Newell, RN, BSN, IBCLC from the Birth Center. Newell is board certified from the International Board of Certified Lactation Consultants. For upcoming class dates and to enroll, call 574-6052 or register on line at www.unitypointfortdodge.org.

When mom is confident and happy about breast-feeding the baby has the same feeling and it becomes a successful breast feeding team. This is the best gift parents can give to their babies. Let us all be the breast-feeding advocates for our newborn babies who cannot speak for themselves.

There are a number of reliable resources for health information and always take time to discuss concerns with your physician. Locally, there are lactation specialists available at Trinity Birth Center who are a great resource for breast feeding moms and are always happy to help.

The following are helpful resources available to breast feeding moms:

Center for Disease Control – www.cdc.gov

American Academy of Pediatricians – www.aap.org

The Laleche League- www.lalecheleague.org

Spanish Resource – www.womenshealth.gov/espanol/la-lactancia/extraccion-almacenamiento-leche-materna/index.cfm

Dr. Ramadevi Sankaran is a pediatrician with UnityPoint Clinic Pediatrics Fort Dodge.