By C. Lisa Lathrop RN, BSN, IBCLC, Program Manager/Nurse Supervisor Nurse-Family Partnership at Family First Health
August is National Breastfeeding Month, 2023
We know there are many health benefits for mom and baby when it comes to breastfeeding. If a mother chooses to do so, it can protect the baby against short and long-term illnesses and diseases. It can also reduce the mother’s risk of certain cancers, help the mom to lose their pregnancy weight more quickly, and has shown a positive impact on rates of postpartum depression when breastfeeding goes well. Breastfeeding is often a natural, beautiful bonding experience for mom and baby, but unfortunately, it can also be stressful and discouraging for others.
August is National Breastfeeding Month, so as an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant, I want to share my knowledge and shed light on the incredible resources available right here in the Gettysburg community for pregnant women who are considering breastfeeding their babies.
The breastfeeding journey should begin during pregnancy
Expectant moms can and should prepare for breastfeeding before giving birth. There is much to learn and understand about the first few days and months postpartum. At Family First Health, we have the Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) Program which supports moms to have a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby by partnering the mom with a personal registered nurse. This nurse offers support advice, and information in many areas and is available to the mom until the baby turns two years old.
Most nurses in the NFP program have undergone a certified lactation counselor training certificate which means they can support moms prenatally with education and then postpartum through feeding assessments and skilled hands-on assessments. We also have two International Board-Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) on staff who can help with complicated cases. There can be many barriers to a mom’s success with breastfeeding and we’ve found that educating the mom on those topics before they deliver increases the number of moms who choose to breastfeed and the length of how long they continue that breastfeeding journey.
Supply and demand
The first hours and days of a baby’s life are crucial to a mom’s milk supply. Early, frequent skin-to-skin can impact breastfeeding and how often the baby eats can also influence it. The frequency of feedings in those first few weeks determines milk supply months down the road. Some will misinterpret the baby’s cluster feedings and assume the baby isn’t getting enough milk during feeding sessions. Sometimes, this results in parents offering a bottle of formula instead of continuing with frequent feedings. If mothers are educated and know what is normal, they are prepared when the time comes.
Did you know milk supply can be influenced by the mother’s calorie intake or stress level? That moms burn up to 500 calories per day as their body creates milk? Or that a baby’s latch is not supposed to be painful?
Lactation consultants and IBCLCs can help moms navigate these topics. Many moms are seen by a lactation consultant while in the hospital, but ongoing education and support are invaluable. While breastfeeding has a longstanding place in history – it isn’t always easy and that is why support exists.
Community resources for all parents
Even if you’re not part of the NFP program, which requires a woman to be less than 28 weeks pregnant with her first child and meet income requirements, resources like WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) and private or public lactation consultants are available. Breastfeeding education classes, both online and in person, also offer valuable insights for expectant mothers. I encourage every parent to bring up the topic of breastfeeding early and often to their doctor during prenatal visits. Ask for educational materials, support or online classes the physician may recommend.
Education Is empowerment
If a parent chooses to breastfeed, they should have every resource available to support that experience. It is critical that they understand the changes in their body and how to help meet the needs of the baby. We are working at Family First Health’s Nurse-Family Partnership to bridge the knowledge gap and make breastfeeding a rewarding journey for every parent and every baby, but if someone is not in our program or in our service area, we want them to know they, too, can find resources to support them.
So, if you’re newly pregnant and seeking a nurturing community, consider these incredible avenues for guidance and care and know that Family First Health’s NFP community stands ready to uplift and empower you every step of the way.
Family First Health Gettysburg Center is located in the Marshall’s Plaza (formerly Peebles Plaza) in Gettysburg. The health center was launched in 2009 following a community needs study and initiation by Healthy Adams County. Phone (717) 337-9400