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Breastfeeding: 10 tips for success

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Breastfeeding: 10 tips for success

Everyone knows breast milk provides the ideal nutrients for newborn babies. But when you stop to consider the additional benefits to both mother and child, it’s no wonder why breastfeeding is strongly encouraged by medical experts.
Tidelands Health family medicine physician Dr. Eileen Conaway, a board-certified lactation consultant and breastfeeding specialist, says breast milk offers protection against common childhood infections, helps prevent type 2 diabetes and systolic hypertension, can lower the risk of SIDS and may result in higher performance on intelligence tests. For breastfeeding moms, benefits include a reduction in the risks of breast cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, ovarian cancer and more.
“Breast milk is the perfect infant food designed by biology, but it goes so far beyond that,” says Dr. Conaway, who serves as associate program director of the Tidelands Health MUSC Family Residency Program and has extensive experience using neuromusculoskeletal medicine to care for pregnant and postpartum women and infants who are having difficulty breastfeeding.
Because of the plethora of healthful benefits, Tidelands Health is a strong proponent of breastfeeding. Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital was the first hospital in South Carolina to receive the prestigious Baby-Friendly designation from the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, a recognition that reflects the hospital’s dedication to promoting breastfeeding and mother-baby bonding.
“The nursing staff is trained to assist, and there are board-certified lactation consultants who also visit patients as well,” Dr. Conaway says.

Help available

Breastfeeding, although a natural process, can be challenging for some new moms. Dr. Conaway recommends expectant moms take a prenatal breastfeeding class to prepare ahead of delivery. The curriculum covers a range of topics related to breastfeeding and helps moms know what to expect.
“Breastfeeding takes a lot of time and dedication,” she adds. “Many women face uncertainties or have challenges. Reach out to lactation professionals for advice, and family support is extremely important to success as well. The early days of motherhood and breastfeeding are not as glamorous and easy as they look on Instagram.”

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Mother-baby bonding is another important aspect for successful breastfeeding. At Tidelands Health, mothers get an hour of skin-to-skin time with their newborns immediately following birth and, as mothers recover, their babies stay with them – not in a nursery – so they can continue bonding.
“Babies who are placed skin-to-skin are twice as likely to breastfeed within the first hour, which is an important factor for establishing milk supply and long-term breastfeeding success,” Dr. Conaway explains. “Skin-to-skin contact is important after leaving the hospital, too, and we recommend continuing the practice for the first three months or so.”
The WHO’s “Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding” also encourages newborns to room in with mom.
“It helps families learn the baby’s cues, including early signs of hunger,” Dr. Conaway says. “Babies can recognize the smell and voice of their parents, so being near them helps the baby relax, cry less, have more stable blood sugar and body temperature and get better quality sleep.”

Key tips

Consider these 10 breastfeeding tips for success:

  • Discuss your plans for breastfeeding with close friends and family, and the reasons why it’s important to you. “Everyone needs cheerleaders in their corner,” Dr. Conaway says.
  • Set short and long-term goals, which help you celebrate small wins and see the bigger picture.
  • Never quit on your worst day. “It’s easy to get discouraged when you’re tired and things aren’t going well,” Dr. Conaway says. “But reach out for professional help in troubleshooting any issues.”
  • Avoid forcing a schedule on the baby. During the first few days, breastfeeding is encouraged every two to three hours. But once the baby is a few weeks old and has regained birth weight, it’s OK to follow their cues and breastfeed on demand.
  • To maintain a full supply of breast milk, most women will need to empty their breasts eight to 12 times per day, whether through direct feeding or pumping.
  • Seek help right away if breastfeeding proves difficult in the first week. It is critical to establish good breastfeeding within the first days because that’s when the milk-making system switches from hormonal control to supply-and-demand. “Waiting when you are having difficulty can have long-term effects on the ability to make a full supply of milk,” Dr. Conaway says.
  • Consult a skilled lactation professional while pregnant if you have diabetes, insulin resistance, obesity, have undergone prior breast surgery or experience no breast growth during pregnancy. Although these conditions may make it more difficult to breastfeed, it’s often still possible with proper planning and support.
  • Use those family and friends who come to visit the new baby in ways that enable you to spend more time focusing on feeding and sleeping. Encourage them to prepare healthy meals, entertain your older children, do laundry and clean up around the house, all of which may be a challenge for you during those first few weeks.
  • Avoid or limit formula feedings, which – unless medically necessary – can reduce your baby’s demand for breast milk and therefore lower your milk production.
  • Take proper care of yourself. Eat a healthy diet, work in some exercise when you are cleared by your care provider and stop smoking if you smoke. Smoking can reduce milk supply as well as change the taste of your milk.

Tidelands Health family medicine physician Dr. Eileen Conaway is board certified in family medicine, neuromusculoskeletal medicine and lactation consulting. She serves as associate program director of the Tidelands Health MUSC Family Medicine Residency Program.

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