Breastfeeding is healthiest for moms and babies. There are many disease-preventing health benefits for both the mother and child, as well as mother-baby bonding benefits. That is why major medical organizations recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, and mothers are encouraged to continue breastfeeding with complementary foods for up to two years or more.
Every woman and baby are different. Establishing a breastfeeding routine requires practice, adjustments and, often, determination. Baby behavior, medical conditions, medications, milk supply, work and travel can require thought and planning, especially if a mother wants to breastfeed exclusively.
Programs such as Women, Infants & Children (WIC) and lactation clinics through hospitals provide breastfeeding education, encouragement and advice. Thanks to community and healthcare support, more women are breastfeeding and breastfeeding longer.
Support is very important in helping a woman breastfeed confidently and successfully, explained Arin Daigneau, Director of Prevention Services with Northwest Colorado Health, where WIC is offered locally. “Breastfeeding is a changing process,” she said. “We need to be there to help moms and babies figure it out in the beginning and work through challenges that may arise. We try to keep them breastfeeding as long as possible.”
Pregnant women are encouraged to begin their education and planning before baby is born, and support is available throughout their breastfeeding journey. WIC certified lactation counselors offer one-one-one support, and a free Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Texting Program is available to WIC moms so that they can connect any time for quick breastfeeding tips and advice.
Just like when pregnant, it’s important to eat a nutritious, balanced diet while breastfeeding. Women who qualify for WIC also receive nutrition counseling and supplemental nutritious foods to help them follow a healthy diet while breastfeeding. It’s important for breastfeeding mothers to make healthy food choices, and drink plenty of water to keep milk supply up and support their baby’s and their own nutritional needs.
Going back to work while breastfeeding also requires planning and preparation. WIC can help new moms get a breast pump and make a plan for returning to work. The Colorado Workplace Accommodations Act requires employers to provide women reasonable time and a private place to express milk. WIC counselors can also work with employers to help them comply with these requirements and see possible benefits such as lower turnover, higher employee productivity and lower healthcare costs.
There are many advantages to breastfeeding. Breast milk contains cells, hormones and antibodies that help protect babies from illness. Research suggests breastfed babies have lower risks of asthma, childhood leukemia, ear infections, eczema, digestive problems, sudden infant death syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
Hormones released during breastfeeding give moms an important sense of emotional fulfillment. They also tend to recover from childbirth quicker, and research suggests they have lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease and some types of cancers. These benefits are dose-related – the more a mom breastfeeds, the more it benefits her and her baby.
Breastfeeding also nurtures an important bond between mom and baby that supports healthy family relationships. “Breastfeeding is really the start of a mom-baby relationship that lasts a lifetime,” Daigneau said.
Northwest Colorado Health provides free breastfeeding counseling and support through WIC and can help connect moms to the resources they need to make their breastfeeding journey successful. Qualifications may apply. For more information, call 970-871-7653 or visit northwestcoloradohealth.org/wic.