Choosing to breastfeed is an important decision for expectant mothers as they prepare for the birth of their baby. Whitney Austin, mother of two, didn’t think twice about her decision to breastfeed her children.
“For me there was no question; I was always going to breastfeed,” she said. “The evidence is overwhelming that it is the best start at life that you can provide your baby.”
Austin already has noticed advantages from breastfeeding her 2-year-old son, Waller, and 2-month-old daughter, Tazewell (Tazzie).
“Breast milk has helped prevent the spread of illnesses within our household or at the very least minimized their impact,” she said. “Tazzie has already gotten two colds from us, but hers were much less severe and very short- lived. Breastfeeding also provides a great opportunity for
bonding with your baby right from the beginning.” There also is a tremendous cost savings that comes
from not having to buy formula. “Other than my pump and a few sessions with my
lactation consultant, breastfeeding is free,” Austin said. “Breastfeeding and healthy eating also allowed me to get back to my prepregnancy weight in eight months with Waller. And getting that precious time with your baby every day is irreplaceable.”
Breastfeeding provides more than 100 benefits, according to Jena Booker, R.N., an international board- certified lactation consultant. Benefits for infants include fewer ear and respiratory infections; lower rates of childhood cancer, diabetes, asthma and sudden infant death syndrome; better brain development; and higher
IQ. Moms who breastfeed recover more quickly from childbirth, return to their prepregnancy weight more quickly and have lower risks for breast and ovarian cancers and osteoporosis later in life.
Breastfeeding also improves glucose metabolism in women. Mothers with Type 1 diabetes require less insulin while breastfeeding. Those with Type 2 diabetes may find their blood sugar runs lower during breastfeeding because their bodies are using sugar more efficiently to make milk.
“For each additional year that a women lactates, she has a 15 percent decrease in the risk of diabetes later in life,” Booker said. “All these benefits to women are ‘dose-related’ — the longer you breastfeed and the more children you breastfeed, the better for mom and baby.”
Breastfeeding in Kentucky
Kentucky ranks poorly when it comes to the number of moms who breastfeed. The U.S. national average is 76.5 percent. Kentucky is well below that at 52.6 percent, according a 2013 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“There are many reasons why more women are not breastfeeding,” said Elizabeth M. Doyle, M.D., director of Lactation Services for Norton Healthcare. “It does not always come naturally to new mothers and babies and, quite honestly, hospitals and health systems have not always promoted it.”
That is changing as Norton Suburban Hospital, future home of Norton Women’s and Kosair Children’s Hospital, works toward receiving designation as a Baby-Friendly Hospital. This World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund initiative recognizes health care facilities that offer the best level of care for infant feeding and bonding.
“We look at breastfeeding in a whole new way,” Dr. Doyle said. “It’s about providing for the long-term health of both mother and baby.”
The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative assists hospitals in giving mothers the information, confidence and skills they need to successfully breastfeed their babies and gives special recognition to hospitals that do so. Baby-Friendly hospitals must meet certain criteria emphasizing infant nutrition and breastfeeding.
For more information, breastfeeding assistance or to find out about Norton Healthcare’s free breastfeeding classes, call the Lactation Help Line at (502) 446-MOMS.
About our experts
Jena Booker, R.N., sees patients at the Norton Suburban Hospital Outpatient Lactation Center, Mother/Baby Unit; 4001 Dutchmans Lane, Louisville, KY 40207; (502) 899-6530
Elizabeth M. Doyle, M.D., director of Lactation Services for Norton Healthcare, is an internal medicine/pediatrics physician at Norton Community Medical Associates – Shepherdsville, 115 Huston Drive, Suite 1, Shepherdsville, KY 40165; (502) 955-7311