Breastfeeding Basics, Benefits and Support
BY HANNAH ROPP
Board-certified lactation consultant Jolie Maehrer, RN, works with new moms at Lehigh Valley Reilly Children's Hospital. She has answers to questions that many parents have about breastfeeding.
Q: What are the current breastfeeding recommendations?
A: The American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) recommends that moms exclusively breastfeed for the first six months before introducing solid foods and then combining breastfeeding and solid foods for the next six months. Breastfeeding for 12 months, or as long as mutually desired by mom and baby, is recommended by the AAP. Others like the U.S. Surgeon General and World Health Organization (WHO) make similar recommendations based on research that shows breastfeeding makes babies and mothers healthier.
Q: Why is breast milk preferred over formula in the first 12 months of a baby’s life?
A: The nutrients in mother’s milk are perfect for every stage of baby’s development. As babies grow, their nutritional needs change. Unlike formula, the nutritional quality of a mother’s milk changes along with her baby’s needs. In addition to being easily digestible, mother’s milk contains antibodies babies need to protect against asthma, allergies, ear infections, gastrointestinal disturbances and a host of other illnesses. Breastfed babies also have a lower incidence for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Evidence suggests breastfeeding reduces a child’s incidence of diabetes and obesity, and a decrease in certain childhood cancers.
Q: How does breastfeeding benefit mom?
A: Women who breastfeed have a reduced incidence of uterine, breast and ovarian cancers, as well as osteoporosis. Breastfeeding also helps shrink the uterus back to its normal size faster and helps with weight loss as well.
Q: I’ve heard moms talk about the benefits of skin-to-skin contact with their newborn. What does that mean?
A: The AAP recommends one hour of uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact by placing baby on their mom’s chest immediately after delivery. During this “magical hour,” babies latch on easier and feed longer. Being able to feel mom’s skin and hear her heartbeat comforts babies and helps in the bonding process. Research shows that skin-to-skin contact stabilizes a baby’s heart rate, breathing and blood sugar levels. Babies who are skin-to-skin feed better, stay warmer and cry less.
LVHN encourages “rooming in,” which is the practice of keeping your new baby in your patient room. This allows you to become more familiar and recognize your baby’s hunger cues so you can feed when your baby is ready rather than following an artificial schedule. Moms and babies tend to sleep better when baby rooms-in with mom. Moms are also more confident with new baby care after discharge from the hospital.
Q: How do I get started with breastfeeding?
A: The best way to begin is by practicing skin-to-skin contact immediately after delivery. Allowing your baby to latch on and feed within the first hour of life will set you up for breastfeeding success. New babies may feed as often as every one to three hours, or whenever they display hunger cues. Breastfeeding is a learned process between mom and baby.
Q: How do I know if my baby is getting enough milk?
A: Signs of your baby being satisfied or full after breastfeeding include your baby falling asleep, relaxed body, open fists, and seeming content between feedings. You will be given a feeding log during your hospital stay to help count wet and soiled diapers. Be sure to take this feeding log with you to your baby’s first doctor appointments. Expect your baby to lose some weight during the first few days of life. Most breastfed babies will return to their birth weight by 10 days old.
Q: Where do I go for breastfeeding education and support?
A: Education and support will help you to prepare for your breastfeeding journey. Refer to your LVHN Baby Bundle app for exclusive prenatal breastfeeding education. Visit LVHN.org/raisingafamily for more information on traditional and virtual classes. A lactation consultant will visit you during your hospital stay. Once home, there are a variety of local support resources, including your LVPG pediatric or primary care provider and a number of breastfeeding support groups. You’ll benefit from peer support while also getting professional advice from a board-certified lactation consultant. Call your baby’s health care provider if you need help and ask to speak to the lactation specialist at your doctor’s office. You may also seek out a private consultant who will come to your home after delivery.
Center for Women’s Medicine: 610-969-4632
Children’s Clinic at Lehigh Valley Hospital: 610-969-4300
LVPG Pediatrics–Fogelsville: 610-821-4920
LVPG Pediatrics–Laurys Station: 610-262-6641
LVPG Pediatrics–Madison Farms: 484-592-7620
LVPG Pediatrics–Pond Road: 610-395-4300
LVPG Pediatrics–Trexlertown: 610-402-2600
Lehigh Valley Family Health Center: 610-969-3500
Lehigh Valley Pediatric Assoc. Inc.: 610-434-2162
LV Breastfeeding Center: 610-366-7676
WIC–Pennsylvania supplemental nutrition program for Women, Infants and Children: 1-800-WIC WINS (1-800-942-9467)
Breast Pump Resources
Contact your health insurance provider on how to get your breast pump for an additional fee.
For more advice and tips for all things motherhood, please visit LVHN.org/motherhoodpartners.