Breastfeeding rates up across U.S.

Published Aug 8, 2014 at 9:58 am (Updated Aug 8, 2014 at 9:58 am)

Breastfeeding is no longer a taboo or rare practice for American mothers.

Nearly 80 percent of mothers across the U.S. now choose to nurse their children after birth, according to data from the Center for Disease control. The 2011 data show an almost eight percent increase from a decade ago. Less than 25 percent nursed 40 years ago.

“It’s education. It’s physicians encouraging mothers to acknowledge the mutual health benefits for both the mother and her baby,” said Linda McIntyre, director of the center for women and children at St. Clair Hospital.

Those benefits, according to the CDC, include mother’s milk as a natural immunity booster for the child, for both allergies and illnesses. And the organization reports that a mother’s postpartum depression may be reduced as well as the risk for some types of cancer and diabetes.

If a mother can breastfeed, she’s advised to do so almost exclusively, McIntyre said.

“The evidence is that, if able, no other food or formula should be given to a baby for the first six months,” she said, “and that’s endorsed and supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics.”

“Feeding should not be painful. And it’s usually a matter of the baby latching improperly or the manner the mother is feeding,” said Michele Palmieri, Internationally Board Certifed Lacation Consultant at St. Clair Hospital.

If able, a mother should at least feed the first week after giving birth, Palmieri said.

“The mother has a ‘special first milk’ called colostrum that’s produced in the first four days, and that’s crucial for a baby to jump start their immune and digestive systems,” she said.

Still, nearly 20 percent of mothers don’t breastfeed. Some of them cannot either due to work or family obligations.

“If it’s a matter of time, or irregular supply for a mother, pumping and storing is an option to allow the baby to get what’s best without interfering with a mother’s schedule too much,” Palmieri said.

As for diet to support healthy systems for both involved, nurses recommend a diverse and balanced diet with an emphasis on whole grains and green, leafy vegetables.

“Especially oatmeal, flax seed – and proteins, lots of proteins, both while the mother’s carrying and feeding, to replenish nutrients lost,” Palmieri said. “That promotes quality and quantity in the milk.”

With the comfortability of breastfeeding in public growing as well, experts have noted a change in cultural acceptance, particularly how the mother addresses the issue to those around her.

“In the past, a mom would leave, or try to hide it, and while there’s still products to cover yourself and be discreet – I think mothers always try to be low-key for their own comfort as well as others’ – but now you hear more often, ‘excuse me, I’m going to feed my baby; could you leave if that’s uncomfortable for you?’ Meaning, she’ll stay where she is. In the past, I think the public expected the mom to leave,” McIntyre said.

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