We’ve come a long way in recent years to provide resources and support for breastfeeding moms, but we still have quite a way to go before our society fully endorses, appreciates and understands the value of breastfeeding.
Moms often lack the information and support they need to have a successful breastfeeding experience and to continue breastfeeding as long as they would wish to. Each one of us can have a role in creating this culture of support. Not sure where to start? Share information and resources with other parents that have helped you, and advocate for policies that protect and promote breastfeeding.
We asked Marcia Rappaport, MS, RDN, CDN, IBCLC, what has changed in breastfeeding in the last decade or so and how these changes have helped new moms. Here’s what she said:
There are usually many International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) in hospitals available for help after birth, helping moms to develop competencies and feel confident that they can successfully breastfeed when they return home. There are also prenatal breastfeeding classes available for pregnant women and their families taught by IBCLCs in hospitals.
More pediatrician’s offices now have IBCLCs available in their offices for lactation help for moms after they leave the hospital. The first few weeks after birth can be challenging for newly breastfeeding moms, and having a breastfeeding professional available can provide encouragement and accurate information to overcome obstacles.
There are more lactation resources available for families receiving WIC benefits (45% of babies born in the US are born into families that receive WIC) by the way of Lactation Counselors, Peer Counselors, and IBCLCs. WIC provides prenatal breastfeeding classes as well as breast pumps for moms who are working/studying.
Many private companies and public organizations have installed breastfeeding rooms in their facilities that are open to lactating moms to breastfeed or pump, which increases breastfeeding exclusivity and duration.
The Affordable Care Act put lactation on the health services map, but I’m not sure if it made lactation services or equipment more available to moms.
We also asked Teresa Peters, IBCLC, ICCE – CD, of Huntington Hospital Breastfeeding Center, about recent changes in breastfeeding:
Oh, my…where to start? I think one of the biggest changes in breastfeeding is the internet. There is information at a mother’s fingertips. It is a blessing and a curse. Not every website is dedicated to evidence-based care. Mothers must be careful to sort through what applies to their own situation. Social media is also another change. Moms can find support and community both in the virtual world and in the real world. Finding a group of moms to talk to and connect with can be very empowering.
One of the very best things that have happened is coverage for lactation services through the Affordable Care Act. Most mothers have to do a little homework to understand their benefits. The following link is very helpful:
And of course, the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) is a major source of change to promote, protect and support breastfeeding mothers while they are in the hospital. The BFHI has increased the breastfeeding knowledge of healthcare providers as well.
This link, https://www.babyfriendlyusa.org, spells out what the initiative is and how it benefits breastfeeding families.
We asked Kimberly Durdin, IBCLC, SMW, what resources she could recommend for new and expecting mothers to learn more about breastfeeding. Here’s what she shared with us:
KD: I would recommend that expecting PARENTS, not just the birthing person, but the partner and, if necessary, the support people, take an excellent class on breastfeeding BEFORE the baby arrives. I offer one every other month or so in my area (Los Angeles), but there are lots offered all over – get some referrals and choose one close to you.
I would take some time before I commit to a pediatrician for my baby to ensure that they have excellent breastfeeding knowledge and referrals. I would not assume that just because your pediatrician is a doctor who specializes in infants and young children he/she knows anything about breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is not taught in medical schools (at least in the US).
I’m particularly fond of some web-based resources for breastfeeding. One of my favorites is www.globalhealthmedia.org. They have a few excellent breastfeeding videos – my favorite is the one called “First Hours After Birth,” and it shows babies self-attaching to breast shortly after birth. It’s very empowering to see that babies have inborn reflexes to help them latch on their own and how we can help them do what they are born to do.
I also LOVE the videos available on the web created by Nancy Mohrbacher. My favorite is https://www.llli.org/breastfeeding-info/positioning/. I love the website www.kellymom.com for sharing evidence-based information about breastfeeding as well as the wonderful website by Dr. James McKenna, https://cosleeping.nd.edu, which shares his research-based information on the benefits of co-sleeping/co-bedding as well as safety guidelines for parents who choose to co-sleep/co-bed.
We also spoke to Ms. Durdin about policies that could be adopted in the US to support breastfeeding moms. The Australian government has a strategic plan for the protection and promotion of breastfeeding and provides services such as 18 weeks of paid parental leave. We asked Ms. Durdin what could be done in the US to protect and encourage breastfeeding as a societal value. Here’s what she said:
KD: Longer leave, especially PAID leave such as what’s available in countries such as Canada, could make a huge difference in protecting breastfeeding for families as well as make it easier for parents to adjust and acclimate to their new role. I would love to see all parents being offered strong information and support around breastfeeding prenatally so that parents could be more prepared before having their baby, as well as continued support to organizations and individuals working to normalize breastfeeding for US parents.
There should be more support overall for breastfeeding, not just for people who can afford to pay for Lactation Consultants. In addition, I think it’s time for breastfeeding/lactation to be a part of the education that pediatricians and OB/GYN’s receive in medical school and part of their training. Often midwives receive this training, but pediatricians and OB/GYN’s need to be up to speed as well! We look to them as authorities, but they haven’t learned even some of the most basic breastfeeding information in their training! This needs to change.
For more on breastfeeding and Lactation Consulting, see the other articles in this series, Breastfeeding Question and Answers and Why Breastfeeding Moms Benefit from Lactation Consultants.