Expectant parents are faced with so many decisions about their baby. Deciding to breastfeed is an important choice parents can commit to for the health of both baby and mom.
"We offer a class called 'Breastfeeding Basics' for expectant moms about every 6 weeks," said Cindy Marcazi, a nurse at Forum Health Trumbull Memorial Hospital. "We talk about getting started with breastfeeding, trouble-shooting and answer questions about what to expect."
International Board Certified Lactation Consultants are health professionals who specialize in the clinical management of breastfeeding. To achieve certification, Maraczi has attended classes, completed the required number of contact hours with nursing moms and passed an examination given annually around the world.
Tribune Chronicle photos / Bob Coupland
Yvonne Dunn, a lactation consultant and child birth educator at Northside Medical Center in Youngstown, conducts a class for soon-to-be moms and dads on breast feeding for newborn babies. Dunn shows the proper ways to breast feed and position and hold the babies and also discusses the benefits to the newborns. To see or purchase these photos and other items, visit cu.tribtoday.com
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics both advocate breastfeeding as best for babies and mothers; the AAP and many other health organizations recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life
According to a report card put out by the CDC that directly tracks outcomes of breastfeeding, only about 58 percent of Ohioans ever attempt to breastfeed their infants. By the time the baby is 3 months old, only about 22 percent are exclusively breastfed.
Expectant couples may have concerns about breastfeeding.
"Moms have heard that breastfeeding can be uncomfortable," said Holly Callow, a breastfeeding coordinator at WIC, the federal program that provides assistance to pregnant and breastfeeding or non-breastfeeding women, infants and children up to 5 years of age.
"We work with moms before the baby is born to offer support, follow up with them for support, and encourage moms to ask the nurse at the hospital to get help so the baby learns to latch on right away," said Callow.
La Leche League is an international organization that provides information, education and support to women who choose to breastfeed. Locally, there is a group that meets monthly in Champion led by Sarah Meadors of Champion, herself a mom of three who's expecting her fourth baby in a few months.
"The best part of LLL is the meetings," said Meadors. "Moms can see other women breastfeeding, talk about questions and problems. It's great to see a nursing mom rather than just reading about it in a book."
One concern new mothers may have is that the baby is getting enough. "If the baby has six to eight wet diapers and three to five dirty diapers, mom can be sure the baby is getting enough to eat," Maraczi said.
Moms who know they will have to return to work often question whether they should breastfeed their baby.
"From the beginning, I knew I would have to go back to work full time, so I spent time reading up on it and preparing ahead of time," said Laurie Faulk of Warren. Faulk is mother to three young children. "I bought an electric pump, built up a stock of milk in the freezer and, after the babies were 4 to 5 weeks old, began giving them an occasional bottle of breast milk."
Faulk also credits a supportive babysitter.
"It was difficult at first, but it soon became the new 'normal' for all of us," said Faulk. "Because of breastfeeding, my babies have been much healthier - they don't get sick as often and they tend to recover faster, which means fewer missed work days for me."
The CDC notes that a history of breastfeeding is associated with a reduction in the risk of ear infections, asthma, obesity, diabetes and sudden infant death syndrome.
"Our national wellness could be so affected by breastfeeding," said Maraczi. "Women have this resource that nearly every one of them could give their baby. If we had a drug that could do all these things, people would be clamoring for it."
Dads and other family members are an important part of the breastfeeding picture as well. They can help and support the nursing mother: changing the baby, bathing and rocking are great ways to form a close bond with the newest little one and allow for the skin-to-skin and eye contact that helps form strong connections.
"Breastfeeding is not just giving a child nourishment," said Meadors. "It's a way of mothering. It's natural, but it may take several weeks of mom and baby working together to get it figured out."
LLL is able to provide that support evenings, weekends and holidays since it's a mother-to-mother support group. "I've gotten calls in the middle of the night and when I was on vacation at the beach," Meadors said.
"I would tell mothers to give it a try," said Callow. "There are so many proven benefits. Find a supportive doctor, get help from agencies, just try."