Breastfeeding Is Good Medicine for Both Baby and Mom

At 10:30 a.m. Aug. 1, 10 babies at West Kendall Baptist Hospital became part of a worldwide movement to promote the health benefits of breastfeeding. Latching onto their mothers’ breasts to feed in unison, they joined babies around the world participating in The Big Latch On, part of World Breastfeeding Week. They also kicked off National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, a campaign by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Big Latch On, coordinated globally by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) and in its second year at the hospital, is used to educate mothers and families about the importance of breastfeeding, provide instruction and the opportunity for both expectant and new moms and babies to get the hang of it.

“It’s a nurturing environment for them to come to,” said Sonya L. Clayton, R.N., assistant nurse manager in the Perinatal Unit at West Kendall Baptist Hospital, who is also a lactation consultant and coordinator of the hospital event.

Baptist Health South Florida hospitals offer support to expectant and new mothers, babies and families, and a variety of training programs. From Baby Boot Camp at West Kendall Baptist Hospital to Great Expectations at South Miami Hospital’s Center for Women & Infants, the classes prepare mothers for the experience, and educate them about the connection between breastfeeding and health. Lactation support and services are also offered at Baptist Hospital and Homestead Hospital.

Experts on breastfeeding as both nutrition and medicine, lactation specialists say that the practice is essential for babies, and results are dramatic in sick infants. Many moms are not aware of the health benefits for them and their babies, from faster weight loss and reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer in mothers to less frequent ear infections, allergies and other illnesses in babies. A study also found that breastfed babies were 60 percent less likely to die of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or SIDS.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend that babies be breastfed exclusively for at least six months to avoid infectious and diarrheal diseases and provide nutrients infants need. They also cite research that links breastfeeding to a lower instance of childhood obesity.


Lactation Consultants Offer Support

Lactation consultants and Baptist Health physicians encourage expectant moms not only to choose breastfeeding, but to learn how — preferably before the baby arrives.

“They think it comes naturally, but it’s a learned skill,” said Maite Hanford, R.N., nurse manager for Mother/Baby Women’s Services at Baptist Hospital, who teaches lactation classes and is also a lactation consultant. “You can’t really appreciate how difficult it could be to learn a new skill, and the class really gives you the ability to try this out, to learn what you can do to make it easy for you. I find a lot of moms put the burden of learning on the baby.”

Adds Hanford: “They say ‘Doesn’t the baby know how to do it?’ No you have to teach them. It’s something you learn together. Once the baby is born it almost becomes a crash course where you learn trial by fire.”

Aside from the babies, no one could be more passionate about breastfeeding than the experienced registered nurses who are also certified lactation consultants.

Maureen Pahl, R.N., a registered nurse for 37 years, is one of three lactation consultants in South Miami Hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). South Miami Hospital is only the ninth hospital in the U.S. to earn The Joint Commission Gold Seal of Approval for Prematurity, and breastfeeding is an important part of the program, she said.

Baptist Health South Florida hospitals immediately place babies with their mothers for the purpose of bonding and lactation. However, because moms of babies being treated in the NICU are separated from the infants, they find it harder to begin and maintain a milk supply, she said, making lactation assistance particularly critical. Nurses swab the mouths of premature and sick babies with breast milk as they are fed their mother’s milk in a tube. Lactation consultants offer support to mothers who must pump the milk every three hours to maintain milk supply while the infant is in the NICU.

“Breast milk is like a daily vaccine. We feed our infants as soon as possible. We utilize the mother’s milk for their oral care even if they cannot feed,” Ms. Pahl said.

“It actually ignites the premature infant’s immune system,” she adds. “It contains immunity, live cells and the nutrients in mother’s milk that cannot be replicated in formula. It’s species specific and contains bioactive ingredients.”

For all mothers and babies, research has also shown that breastfeeding increases maternal bonding and enhances brain growth.

“There’s a priceless bonding that does occur,” Ms. Pahl said, “when a woman knows that she’s providing her infant’s nutrients and wellness.”

For more information about lactation classes or to register, click on the following links:

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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