Health officials urge mothers to breastfeed their infants

According to the surgeon general, one of the most highly effective preventative measures a mother can take to protect the health of her infant and herself is to breast-feed.

In the United States, out of the approximately 75 percent of mothers who start out breastfeeding, only 13 percent of babies are exclusively breastfed at the end of six months.

Jennifer Gullick, special projects officer and lactation specialist at the WIC Food Center in New Albany, said that breastfeeding is physically and emotionally beneficial to the baby and the mother..

“Breastfeeding stimulates brain development, lowers the risk of infections of all types, lowers the risk of childhood cancer, and breast milk is an ideal food source for the baby,” said Gullick. “Breastfeeding makes a mom burn about 600 calories a day, it lowers the risk of different types of cancers, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, helps with post-partum depression, and so much more.”

The WIC Center has a lactation department that is a nutritional supplement program that offers breastfeeding services for breastfeeding mothers at no cost. Breastfeeding classes, lactation servces for prenatal mothers, teaching the mother what to expect at the hospital, offering emotional support to the mother, and more are all also available.

In addition, the department is associated with the Mississippi Breast Pump Program, which offers hospital-grade pumps, working mom pumps, and harmony manual pumps.

Gullick also teaches the importance of correct latching techniques from mother to baby.

She said, “We teach the four main key points to a latch, we support the mother physically, emotionally, and mentally and we are a listening ear to her as well.”

Ever since WIC began in 1972, there has been a lactation department. Gullick sees approximately 523 clients a month in Union, Tippah, Benton, and Marshall counties.

WIC is an income-based supplemental nutrition program and Gullick said that if a mother has a child that has free or reduced lunches at school, they can go to the Union County Health Department and see if they qualify for WIC.

There are 1,130 clients enrolled in WIC in Union County. As of July 2012, out of approximately 115 new mothers, 23 were breastfeeding. The ages of the pregnant mothers start at 14 years old and go up to 41 years old.

“Any of our WIC moms that deliver at the hospital that want to breastfeed can get our help. We are also there for those that want help after they deliver. Breastfeeding is a natural follow-up to delivery. We encourage moms to breastfeed. Babies cannot have whole milk until they are up to a year old,” said Gullick. “There are 180 components of breast milk – fats, carbs, proteins, and more and they are all exactly balanced for the baby. It takes less time to breastfeed than to bottle-feed. Breastfeeding is readily available, warm, convenient, and easy to do.”

Gullick talked to expectant mothers about breastfeeding at a baby shower for WIC clients. She answered many of their questions and concerns. One of the mothers’ concerns was how long breast milk will keep.

Gullick said, “Breast milk will keep at room temperature for six to eight hours, in the refrigerator for five days, in the freezer for three to six months, and in the deep freezer longer. Breast milk is very resilient because it has so many antibiotic agents in it.”

She also told them that colostrum or breast milk is being produced as soon as the woman becomes pregnant. Even if the baby is premature, there will be enough breast milk to feed the baby when he or she is delivered.

The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages exclusive breastfeeding up to six months of age. The World Health Organization encourages exclusive breastfeeding up to two years old.

According to the surgeon general, key barriers to breastfeeding are the following: lack of knowledge, lactation problems, poor family and social support, social norms, embarrassment, employment and child care, and not having adequate health services.

Laurie Wheeler, RN, MN, and international board certified lactation consultant, with Baptist Memorial Hospital-Union County (BMH-UC) works closely with Gullick at the WIC Center.

Wheeler works with all mothers who are thinking about breastfeedng and who deliver and want to breastfeed. She encourages exclusive breastfeeding for all mothers.

Some problems for the mother associated with unnecessary formula and bottle use are the following: full milk supply takes longer to come in, milk production will be lower, latching-on problems, breast refusal by baby, sore nipples and painful latch, engorged, sore breasts, and/or mastitis (breast infection), and an increased risk of osteoporosis, certain breast and ovarian cancers, and anemia.

The problems for the baby that are associated with unnecessary formula use are the following: an increased use of diarrhea disease, respiratory infections, ear infections, meningitis, type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, Chron’s disease, ulcerative colitis, allergies, asthma, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, increased health care costs, formula recalls, increased mortality rate, a lower IQ, lower test scores, and higher rates of learning deficiencies.

Fifty-two percent is the average of the hospital patients that are breastfeeding or will breastfeed.

According to the annual Breastfeeding Report Card from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “CDC’s Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care survey assesses and scores how well maternity care practices at hospitals and birth centters support breastfeeding, on a scale of 0-100, with a higher score indicating better practice. From 2009 to 2011, the national average mPINC score increased from 65 to 70, and scores increased by five or more points in 26 states and the District of Columbia.

In relation to the rest of the states in the country, Mississippi ranked lowest in the number of women who ever breastfed and those who breastfeed or exclusively breastfeed. Idaho was the highest state in the country.

However, Mississippi continues to improve with the number of breastfeeding clients at hospitals and various lactation departments. 

BMH-UC has seen an increase in breastfeeding initiation rates, according to Wheeler.

Wheeler said that breastfeeding is one of the best things to do to prevent diseases.

“Breastfeeding is the first feeding you will do with your child. Just because the baby has a hold of the breast doesn’t mean that the baby is latched on right to get the milk out really well,” said Wheeler.

“Normally women with lower education and lower incomes don’t breastfeed as much. Some of the barriers for breastfeeding for mothers are going back to work early, some are in school, there’s misinformation about breastfeeding, and more,” said Wheeler.

When in the hospotal, WIC and BMH-UC work together with mothers and give them pumps, ongoing support, and more. At least 90 percent of the mothers who are breast-feeding at BMH-UC are on WIC.

There is a Breastfeeding Resource Center at BMH-UC that offers many lactation services, including breastfeeding classes, working with any breastfeeding situation, a follow-up clinic, help with latching and positioning, and much more. 

There will be prenatal breastfeeding classes that will be held on Sept. 11 from 6:30-9:30 p.m. and on Nov. 6 from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Childbirth classes will be held on Sept. 8, Oct. 13, and Nov. 10, all from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

 The Breastfeeding Resource Center is open Monday through Friday and the phone number is 662-538-2397. Thw WIC Center is located at 207 Carter Avenue and the phone number is 662-534-4131.