Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Breastfeeding tied to community support

Laura Burnett, RN, BSN
International Board Certified Lactation Consultant

My goodness! You would think breastfeeding were the newest thing in town or something.

So today in the news, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports breastfeeding rates are up. Okay, that’s great! So, duly noted, the information is three years old. In 2007, over 75% of newborns were breastfed at least briefly. This is definitely going the right direction. Healthy People 2010 goals were 75% breastfeeding at birth and 50% still breastfeeding at 6 months, with 25% breastfeeding at one year.

The report really continues to bring to light that women want to breastfeed, however it just isn’t that easy. If it were, I know that women would breastfeed longer. Working with new mothers, challenged with returning to work within just a few weeks, breastfeeding is often sacrificed because it is not supported within our culture as being vitally important to the health of our community. Now that sounds a little radical, but again, if new mothers were provided with a work leave that did not cause financial concerns for the family, and the equipment, resources and support were available, I know our extended breastfeeding rates would be significantly higher.

In some communities, women are removed from public places for breastfeeding their babies and this is supported by law enforcement and the community. In Texas, however, we are fortunate that mothers can breastfeed their baby in any place they are allowed to be. As recognized in the CDC report, there are places that have supportive communities, and the breastfeeding rates are much higher.

Another notable fact in the report was that less than 4 percent of US births occur at hospitals designated "Baby-Friendly." It is this early support that really helps mothers get off to a good start and shows the value that the health care organization has for breastfeeding within the community. There are only five hospitals in Texas designated “baby-friendly” by the World Health Organization: Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Allen, Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital, Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth, Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Hurst-Euless-Bedford, and Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Stephenville.

Lactation consultant support in the hospital is very important as well. The highly trained specialists are there for those challenging breastfeeding situations, such as prematurity. Mothers need support beyond the hospital stay. Fortunately at many Texas Health hospitals we are able to provide this through our Breastfeeding Support Centers. It is a wonderful community service that really fills the needs of breastfeeding mothers long after discharge from the hospital. Other great resources within our community are the Tarrant and Dallas County WIC programs, LeLeche League, and for healthcare professionals, the Dallas Area Breastfeeding Alliance.

So what can you do to help support breastfeeding?

• Become an advocate, thank a new mother for breastfeeding her baby. Acknowledge the cultural and community barriers, and praise women who have breastfed at all.

• Find out about your state’s legislation on the protection, support and promotion of breastfeeding. Did you know that the U.S. Healthcare Reform Bill includes protection for mothers’ break time to pump breastmilk at work? For great information on breastfeeding, visit http://www.breastmilkcounts.com

• Support causes and policies that make “breastfeeding the norm.” This is a fun, upbeat, website: http://www.bestforbabes.org

• Support Human Milk Banking, so the smallest and sickest newborns continue to be provided with mothers’ milk even when their own mother is unable to provide it. Learn more at http://www.hmbana.org

Laura Burnett, RN, BSN
International Board Certified Lactation Consultant
Nursing Supervisor, Women's Services
Texas Health HEB

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for promoting this very important thing that we can do for our babies. I am so lucky to have had a supportive family and to work in a supportive place that allows me the time and space to pump for my child. I have a 5 year old and a 1 year old. Both received breast milk exclusively (no formula) for their first year. My son continued to nurse morning and evening until he was 27 months old. We'll have to see if my daughter wants to continue to nurse now as well. Both babies were different about nursing and I had different struggles with each. I truly appreciate the time and effort it takes for moms (especially working moms) to nurse and nurse long-term. But I also know that it is difficult and at times, does not work for some moms and some babies. But it is so true that we each can help other new moms make their attempts at breastfeeding successful. Honor the nursing moms in your life and do what you can to make them comfortable, not uneasy about the process. We can all help these rates continue to rise.