“Babies are born to breastfeed. It’s normal. It’s what is suppose to happen,” said lactation consultant Jacinta Langley of Logansport Memorial Hospital .
While not all new mothers decide to breastfeed, the U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina M. Benjamin is hoping to encourage more to do so.
Earlier this year, the surgeon general issued a call to action to support breastfeeding.
The call was directed at health care providers, employers, insurers, policy makers, researchers and the community to support mothers in reaching breastfeeding goals.
Langley believes the call to action was a good move.
“I think by addressing it, it makes people more aware of why it’s important,” she said.
While interest in breastfeeding seems to have increased in recent years, Langley said that wasn’t always the case.
“For so long, it became not the norm to breastfeed,” said Langley. “People are seeing formula is not the same as breastfeeding.”
When a mother makes the decision to breastfeed, the results are healthier moms and babies, she added.
Logansport Memorial Hospital staff members encourage mothers to consider breastfeeding.
“We are happy with the decision to breastfeed. Any amount is beneficial, but we like to encourage six months,” Langley said.
According to a news release from the Indiana State Department of Health, Indiana is already responding to this call of action.
Promoting breastfeeding is also a goal for the Indiana Comprehensive Nutrition and Physical Activity Plan 2010-2020.
Two of the objectives in the plan include: Enhancing and maintaining a statewide network of local breastfeeding partnership and professionals breastfeeding experts by 2015 and by 2020, increase the percentage of mothers who breastfeed their babies at 6 months from 37 percent to 50 percent.
“It’s up to all of us to make Indiana a place where new mothers and babies can experience the many, many benefits of breastfeeding,”
Dr. Judy Ganser, medical director of the Division of Maternal and Child Health at the Indiana State Department of Health, said in the release.
According to the news release, approximately 70 percent of Hoosier mothers reported breastfeeding at least once, which trails the national average by five percent.
That percentage declines once the mother and child are discharged from the hospital.
At Logansport Memorial Hospital, new mothers show great interest at first. Langley said it is also common to see the percentage of breastfeeding mothers drop after discharge.
“That is where my role comes in — to educate,” she said. “I want people to know they can call for help.”
Langley is in charge of meeting with new mothers on the hospital floor after the baby is born. She also follows up with phone calls within one week after discharge and again in two months and six months, if there are no issues.
According to the Breastfeeding Report Card for the United States put together by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, high initiation rates for breastfeeding indicate most mothers want to breastfeed.
“However, even from the very start, mothers may not be getting the breastfeeding support they need,” the report says. “Low breastfeeding rates at 3, 6, and 12 months illustrate that mothers continue to face multiple barriers to breastfeeding.”
Some of those barriers, according to the surgeon general’s report include lack of knowledge, lactation problems, poor family and social support, social norms, embarrassment, employment and child care and health services.
Langley feels it is important to support breastfeeding, so more mothers feel comfortable and confident in order to become successful.
“I think the more women that breastfeed, the more women that are going to breastfeed,” she said.
Problems vary from mother to mother, according to Langley. Most typical problems on the hospital floor are getting a good latch and making sure the baby is eating effectively.
There are several benefits to breastfeeding, according to the news release. Those benefits include protecting the infant from infections and illnesses that include diarrhea, ear infections and pneumonia; children who are breastfed for six months are less likely to become obese; breastfeeding reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome; and mothers who breastfeed have a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
For those who may run into problems while attempting to breastfeed, Langley said there are a number of resources available.
Langley is accessible 24-7, she said. The local Women Infant and Children office is also a great source for support.
There is also a Heartland Breastfeeding Coalition, which covers Cass, Fulton and Pulaski counties. The group meets monthly or every other month.
Logansport Memorial Hospital also offers a breastfeeding class about every six weeks.
“If moms are unable to attend, they are given the opportunity for a one-on-one appointment for more information,” Langley said.
• Denise Massie is a staff writer at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5151 or firstname.lastname@example.org