Breastfeeding could save 800,000 babies

A recent study shows benefits of breastfeeding for mom and baby.

More than 800,000 children’s lives would be saved worldwide each year if nearly every mother breastfed her baby at birth, according to a study recently published in The Lancet. And because breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer, this would also result in fewer women getting breast cancer.

In addition, a recent policy statement by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists now recommends new mothers breastfeed exclusively for the first six months after giving birth, or longer if possible. The Kentucky Senate recently passed SCR9, a resolution that encourages the removal of barriers to women who wish to breastfeed.

“Even though most moms know that breastfeeding is beneficial for their babies and themselves, they face multiple barriers to breastfeeding,” said Elizabeth Doyle, M.D., director of lactation services for Norton Healthcare. “Maternity leave is short, workplace breastfeeding support is inconsistent and public perception is often negative. Health care professionals are not always knowledgeable or supportive of breastfeeding, and it can be tough for moms to find help. We have lost that culture where every woman’s mother, aunt, grandmother, sister and friends have all breastfed. Moms are no longer surrounded by support.”

“Breastfeeding extremely beneficial, and everyone in the community should do what they can to encourage and support mothers.”

Breastfeeding decreases the infant’s risk of getting an array of illnesses, including ear infections, pneumonia, diarrhea/vomiting, leukemia, diabetes and sudden infant death syndrome, just to name a few. It also helps a mother return to her pre-pregnancy weight and recover from childbirth sooner.

In addition, infant formula is made from cow’s milk, which doesn’t contain important nutrients baby needs.

“Human milk is species-specific, ever-changing to meet the infant’s unique needs, and it contains living cells that fight infections and heal injuries,” Dr. Doyle said.

The commonwealth of Kentucky ranks 48th out of the 50 states in lowest breastfeeding rates, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2014 Report Card on Breastfeeding. Only West Virginia and Louisiana have lower rates. In Kentucky, 61.3 percent of mothers have ever breastfed. The national average is 79.2. Six months after giving birth, only 31.5 percent of Kentucky moms are still breastfeeding.

The Lancet study reports that in low- and middle-income countries, only one in three babies are breastfed exclusively for six months. In high-income countries, such as the United States, only one in five children are breastfed for up to 12 months.

“Breastfeeding saves lives and money in all countries, rich and poor alike. Therefore, the importance of tackling the issue globally is greater than ever,” said Cesar Victora, professor at the Federal University of Pelotas in Brazil and author of the study. “There is a widespread misconception that the benefits of breastfeeding only relate to poor countries. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

“We know that some women have difficulty breastfeeding, but there is help if they would like to try,” said Jena Booker, R.N., registered lactation consultant at Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital. “We’re here to support a women’s decision to breastfeed.”

More support for moms available

“With all of the evidence in support of breastfeeding, we consider this part of a journey to doing what is best for mom and baby,” said Lynnie Meyer, Ed.D., R.N., MSN, system vice president, women’s and children’s community partnerships, and chief development officer, Norton Healthcare. “We were also able to back that up with support from the Norton Healthcare Foundation — taking our efforts a step further by establishing the Baby Bistro & Boutique.”

The Baby Bistro & Boutique is a shop within Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital for new mothers wishing to breastfeed. It sells and rents breast pumps and parts, breastfeeding bras, breastfeeding pillows and many other breastfeeding supplies and support items.

Other services provided by Norton Healthcare Lactation Centers and Services, a part of Norton Women’s Care, include one-on-one assistance with breastfeeding issues including pumping and back-to-work consultations, individual prenatal consultations to prepare an expectant mother for breastfeeding and assistance with special needs infants, multiples and babies having difficulty with weight gain. Specialists also have the capability to analyze breast milk for fat and caloric content.

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