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Happy National Breastfeeding Month!

Happy National Breastfeeding Month!

August is National Breastfeeding Month, a celebration of the exceptional benefits of breastfeeding. This month, and all year long, Frederick Regional Health System is committed to protecting, promoting, and supporting breastfeeding mothers and their babies. Throughout August, we plan to extend our support by sharing education and resources available in Frederick County and encouraging everyone in our community to get involved and share the life-giving benefits of breast milk.

The Benefits of Breastfeeding

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports, breastfeeding is an investment in health, not just a lifestyle decision. Only 1 in 4 infants are breastfed exclusively as recommended by the time they are 6 months old. Most mothers want to breastfeed their babies but stop early due to a lack of support or education.

To support mothers and babies who are breastfeeding, we must focus on the benefits for both infants and mothers. Breast milk is an excellent source of nutrition for infants and provides added benefits for mothers, too:

  • Because breastfeeding creates a unique bonding experience between mom and baby, women who breastfeed have a lower risk of postpartum depression.
  • Breast milk is rich in nutrients, making it the perfect natural food for babies. Breastfed babies are less likely to become obese and have lower risks of developing ear infections, respiratory infections, allergies, childhood cancers, and diabetes.
  • Breastfeeding mothers burn extra calories each day, helping them return to their pre-pregnancy weight quicker. In fact, moms burn about 500 extra calories a day while producing breast milk.
  • Later in life, breastfed teens and adults are less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and pre- and postmenopausal breast cancers.
  • Other emotional benefits for mom include stress reduction and positive feelings because of the naturally soothing hormones produced during breastfeeding, increased confidence and self-esteem, and greater wellness of body, mind, and spirit for the whole family.
  • The antibodies found in breastmilk build stronger immune systems, helping babies fight off viruses and other bacteria and protecting them from infection. They also improve brain maturation.
  • Women who breastfeed tend to have lower rates of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer. They have fewer urinary tract infections, too.

Common Breastfeeding Questions

Whether you’re a new mom or parenting pro, breastfeeding comes with its fair share of questions. At one time or another, every mother has asked them. Here are some answers to common questions you may have:

  1. How often should I breastfeed my baby?
    Every baby is different. How much and how often your baby feeds depends on your baby’s needs. In the first few days, your baby may eat as often as 1-3 hours. As your baby grows, their belly grows, too – along with your milk supply - so your baby will drink more breast milk at each feeding. Over the first few weeks or months, feedings may occur every 2-4 hours, while some babies may feed as often as every hour (cluster feedings). Your baby may breastfeed about 8-12 times in 24 hours.

    From 6-12 months and on, breastfed babies’ feeding patterns vary and will likely change as they grow and start to eat solid foods. Continue to follow your baby’s feeding cues and breastfeed when you notice signs of hunger. Visit the CDC to learn more about how much and how often to breastfeed.
  1. How long should I breastfeed?
    The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants are breastfed exclusively for about the first 6 months with continued breastfeeding and introducing of appropriate complementary foods for 1 year or longer. Mothers should be encouraged to breastfeed their children for at least 1 year. The longer an infant is breastfed, the greater the protection from certain illnesses and long-term diseases. The more months or years a woman breastfeeds (combined breastfeeding of all her children), the greater the benefits to her health as well.
  1. How do I know if my baby has latched?
    Infants should stay on the breast continuously during feeding. It is common for infants to have intermittent sucking while at the breast. Full cheeks and flanged lips also indicate a good latch. You should feel a strong pulling or tugging while your baby is sucking. Usually, dimpled cheeks or a clicking sound indicate that the infant is not well latched.
  2. My baby seems hungry. How do I know if my baby is getting enough milk?
    The early milk, called colostrum, is available for your baby in a small amount - about a teaspoon per feeding. The baby’s overall health will determine if they are getting enough breast milk. Your nurse and pediatrician will look at the number of diapers, weight loss, vital signs, and daily exams to determine the health of your baby. Your doctor or your nurse will let you know if they have any concerns about the amount of breast milk the baby is getting.

    When your baby is a day or two old, it’s normal to experience cluster feeding, or wanting to feed all the time. It often happens as higher volume milk is produced. The best thing you can do is continue to offer your breast. The more your baby suckles, the more milk they will receive. Cluster feeding can feel frustrating, but your baby will be more satisfied after feeds once your higher volume milk comes in around 2-4 days after birth. If you’re concerned, talk to your doctor.
  3. What legal rights do I have as a breastfeeding mother?
    All 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands have laws that allow women to breastfeed in any public or private location. The full state-by-state breakdown can be found here. Additionally, breastfeeding mothers should be familiar with all workplace laws and travel laws, too.
  4. Should I feed the baby from both breasts?
    After the infant is done breastfeeding on one side, if the infant is awake and interested, offer the second side. It depends on the infant whether they will nurse on both sides. It’s always best to offer both sides the first few days until more milk comes in. If the baby only nurses on one side during a feeding, offer the opposite breast at the next feeding. If your baby feeds on both sides, offer the side you ended with during the previous feeding to provide enough stimulation for both breasts.

For more answers to commonly asked breastfeeding questions, visit our Breastfeeding FAQs page.

Breastfeeding Support Services Available

FRHS is just one of several resources available to breastfeeding mothers and babies in Frederick County. Baby BEST (Breastfeeding Education & Support Together) is a program offered at our Birth Place to support nursing mothers. Here, our international board-certified lactation consultants promote successful breastfeeding by offering education and consultations.

Baby BEST services include:

  • A monthly class for expecting couples.
  • Assistance with bra fitting.
  • Bravado nursing bras available to purchase.
  • Inpatient breastfeeding rounds daily.
  • Telephone helpline.
  • Weekly support group for moms and babies (we meet every Friday at Frederick Health in the mother/baby classroom from 1:30-3 p.m.).

Baby BEST can be reached at 240-566-3880, and services are available by appointment. The Baby BEST office is located near the Birth Place on the first floor of the hospital. You can also visit our Breastfeeding FAQs page. Otherwise, the CDC has a wonderful online hub for breastfeeding. Check it out for statistics on why breastfeeding matters, recommended guidelines, and other helpful resources.