Breastmilk has unique qualities that influence lifelong health for babies (and breastfeeding is beneficial for mother’s health as well). Breastmilk is free and always ready to serve, even if the power goes out or when you are on the go. It is never contaminated by beetles or melamine. Best of all, breastmilk provides lifelong protection from illness and disease. We know that breastfeeding is a public health issue (like wearing seatbelts) instead of lifestyle choice (like wearing jewelry), and it is the responsibility of our whole community, not just of parents, to provide the necessary support for every mother and baby to succeed. We are thrilled that Centra Virginia Baptist Hospital is now designated as BabyFriendly and has a unique environment to support mothers and babies be the most healthy!
Go to BFintheBurg.wordpress.com to learn more about a variety of local breastfeeding resources and to see local businesses that support breastfeeding.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recently revised its guidelines about breastfeeding to reflect that this is not simply a lifestyle choice, it is a public health issue. Formula fed babies are more likely to suffer from obesity, diabetes, asthma, and leukemia as they grow up. They also have a significantly higher risk of life-threatening illnesses, including respiratory and gastrointestinal illness (especially premature babies) as well as ear infections. Their risk of death due to SIDS is increased by 60%. Formula-feeding mothers have higher rates of breast and ovarian cancer, they take longer to get back to their pre-pregnancy weight, and they have more postpartum depression and diabetes.
Pregnancy increases a woman’s risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. But breastfeeding cancels out this risk. Unfortunately, historically African American women have breastfed at much lower rates than Caucasian women and other women of color. Centra’s Sister to Sister program offers support specifically for African American mothers. While the latest report from the CDC shows small improvements in the past few years, only 60% of African American babies have ever been given breast milk, compared to 77% for Caucasians, 81% for Latinos, and 83% for Asian Americans. Only 28% of African Americans mothers continue exclusive breastfeeding until the baby is 6 months old, compared to 45% of Caucasians, 46% of Latinos and 56% of Asian Americans. These women need support and encouragement to initiate and continue breastfeeding for both their baby and themselves, especially because breastfeeding also decreases the risk of childhood obesity, as well as SIDS, diabetes, infections, asthma, autism, and childhood leukemia. While the CDC and AAP and other medical authorities recommend at least 6 months of breastfeeding, research shows that the benefits from ANY breastfeeding can be significant. Several studies show that years after weaning, women who breastfeed for at least three months have fewer risk factors for diabetes and heart disease.
Just like pregnancy – breastfeeding requires support! We are lucky to have many resources in Lynchburg to support breastfeeding education – before and after the baby is born. Best Start Parenting, Centra Health, and Lactation Health Resources all offer caring expertise for breastfeeding. Lynchburg La Leche League is a free breastfeeding support group that meets the 3rd Thursday of each month. Also check out breastfeeding and prenatal classes at CentraHealth.
In 2012 Centra’s Virginia Baptist Hospital was chosen for a select program called BestFed Beginnings that helped guide the hospital to designation as BabyFriendly in 2015! With the help of BestFed, our breastfeeding rates continued to rise from 60% to 90%; we know that next we will see rates of childhood and adult obesity drop in our community. BabyFriendly hospitals follow ten steps that are proven to support moms and babies, which include babies rooming in with mothers, receiving breastmilk only (unless medically indicated), and not using pacifiers. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting to introduce a pacifier until breast-feeding is well established, usually three to four weeks after birth. Avoiding pacifiers shortly after birth can help protect your milk supply as well as promote healthy weight gain for your baby. So if you ask for a pacifier at VBH, your nurse will explain the risks to breastfeeding, encourage you to use an alternative like your pinky finger or even help you practice latching. Pacifiers are not forbidden, they are simply not supplied by the hospital. Why not just use the pacifier? Research continues to show that exclusive breastfeeding gives even greater protection against obesity, cutting the risk by up to 45%. Breastfeeding is natural, but it still takes newborn babies practice to learn how. If you are having trouble with your latch, VBH is implementing new lactation services to support you in the hospital.
The Motherhood Collective is a local gem – an opportunity for new and expectant moms to gather and exchange information on pregnancy, birth, and parenthood. They have panel discussions, parenting groups, playdates, and childcare! Meetings are at 10AM on the 2nd and 4th Monday of each month at Mosaic in The Plaza: 2323 Memorial Ave, Suite 19 (Lower level, next to HighPeak Sportswear). The Plaza is located behind the Lynchburg Public Library. Read more on their website or Facebook page.
There are lots of great websites – www.breastfeeding.com is an easy one to remember! Learn about the booby traps that keep some moms from succeeding in their goal to breastfeed on Best for Babes! For African American Mothers -breastfeeding support can be hard to find. Here are a few sites: Moms Rising and MyBrownBaby. Dads – don’t forget how important you are! Only 3% of women will continue to breastfeed without the support of their spouse. Remember you are saving around $1200/yr on formula!
For questions about medications and breastfeeding – check this site from the National Library of Medicine – and remember that most medicines are safe while breastfeeding.