Study: More women are breastfeeding over past decade and 5 steps to removing breastfeeding barriers

Just in time for World Breastfeeding Week, which started yesterday August 1 and runs through August 7 and National Breastfeeding month this August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a breastfeeding report card yesterday stating that Breastfeeding rates have climbed to nearly 77%, rising to the largest annual increase over the last decade. 

That’s great news for breastfeeding advocates and advocacy groups. What could have contributed to the bump in rate of new moms choosing the nurse?

Michele Deck, president of Lamaze International, says that breastfeeding has gotten a lot of “good press” lately.  She even credits public stories about celebrities, such as Beyonce, breastfeeding, for helping boost active interest in nursing, and breastfeeding and getting education about it among their fans and followers. 

“[Beyonce] made it very clear that what’s best for her baby is a priority,”  Deck told Bellyitch. ” I applaud a new mother who has a celebrity following and who comes out for safe and healthy births…does research about traditional and conventional births and is an advocate for womanhood.”

Deck also credits the bump in nursing to the fact that more hospitals  are implementing mother-baby nursing programs. “The policy and procedures that they have put into place are much more supportive of breastfeeding than in the past,” she said, adding that another contributor to the increase is that    “mothers are more informed than in the past about what’s best for their babies.”

But there is still more work to be done. In support of these findings, Lamaze International  released a listing of 5 barriers to breastfeeding it says need be addressed in order to encourage more mothers to nurse their new babies:

1.    Unnecessary birth interventions:  While there are many unknowns during the birthing process, women can seek maternity care practices backed by science that can make birth safer and healthier. Fetal monitors, confinement to bed, artificially starting or speeding up labor and cesarean surgery can make birth more difficult and lead to a harder start for breastfeeding. For example, women whose babies are delivered by cesarean surgery can face a delay before the mature milk comes in. 
2.    Separating mom and baby: Abundant evidence shows that mother-baby, skin-to-skin care beginning right after birth and continuing uninterrupted, for at least one hour, or until after the first feeding for breastfeeding women, helps mothers, babies and breastfeeding. Skin-to-skin care helps a mom feel more confident, respond more quickly to her baby’s needs, reduces stress and makes breastfeeding easier. There are also clear benefits for babies: they breastfeed sooner, longer and more easily, they cry less, have more stable temperatures and blood sugar levels, have lower levels of stress hormones, and adjust more easily to life outside of the womb.
3.    Use of pacifiers or other artificial nipples before breastfeeding is well established: Does the hospital nursery use pacifiers or bottle-feed babies without need? It’s an important question for expecting parents to ask. Studies show that early pacifier use may interfere with breastfeeding, and could decrease mom’s ability to exclusively breastfeed and reduce the duration of breastfeeding. Artificial nipples should be avoided until breastfeeding is well established (after about four weeks). 
4.    Supplementing breastmilk with formula: Breastmilk is best for babies. Formula simply does not provide the added nutritional and health benefits of breastmilk that’s naturally packed with antibodies, and should not replace formula unless there is a compelling medical reason to do so. Even the few days following birth are vitally important. The breasts produce a vital substance called colostrum, which protects the baby from illnesses and provides important nutrients. 

5.    Lack of postpartum breastfeeding support: Many new moms need breastfeeding support after hospital or birth center discharge. Support may include: a home visit or hospital postpartum visit, referral to local community resources, follow-up telephone contact, a breastfeeding support group, or an outpatient clinic. This is a good time for a mom to talk about any challenges she may be having, and get the help she needs to give her baby the healthiest start.

And for those who find it challenging to breastfeed and feel like the push for doing it makes them feel like failures as mothers even though physically they find it challenging to successfully nurse their babies, Deck acknowledges that physiologically , not all women can breastfeed successfully. 

“The last thing we want them to do  is feel like they are unsucessful moms because they are not,” Deck said. “We want them to support them in making the best choices for their babies in their circumstance and that is different person to person. Best mothers come with loving hearts and do the best they can with the babies they have, however they get them and their specific circumstances.”

For more information, Lamaze’s Push for Your Baby( campaign offers useful information, resources and support that expectant and new moms can check out to get more information and awarness about breastfeeding. They can also check out its page focusing on childbirth challenges to get education on what to expect from the childbirth experience and surmounting obstacles: HERE

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