August is national breastfeeding month which provides an important opportunity to discuss the benefits of breastfeeding as well as the available resources for breastfeeding support. Breastfeeding can be daunting and overwhelming, especially without prior experience or knowledge of available resources. Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for up to 6 months of life and beyond if desired. The health benefits include decrease in maternal breast and ovarian cancer, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and obesity. It also decreases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome and childhood infections. Approximately 83% of infants are breastfed at birth which is an increase in recent years, but only 25% of infants are exclusively breastfed at 6 months of life. There are many reasons for this decrease, some of which include lack of available maternity leave, lack of dedicated breastfeeding areas in the workplace, nipple or breast pain, low milk supply, and difficulty latching.
Lactation consultants are a great resource while inpatient in the hospital to initiate breastfeeding, but many people need support beyond their admission. Many hospitals offer outpatient lactation consultations during the postpartum period. Local WIC offices usually have a breastfeeding consultant as well. There can be some medical barriers to breastfeeding such as mastitis or engorgement which you should see your Ob/Gyn provider for. Additionally, premature delivery or even cesarean section delivery can affect the timing for milk supply to come in.
The World Health Organization recommends 10 Hospital Practices to Encourage and Support Breastfeeding which include initiating breastfeeding within the first hour of life as well as rooming in 24 hours a day with the infant. Other interventions that can assist with breastfeeding include skin to skin contact within the first hour of life which can prolong breastfeeding by up to 64 days. 1 in 8 women cease breastfeeding before they desire to which can increase the risk for postpartum depression. This is important to discuss with your Ob/Gyn provider as there are many available resources and interventions not only to help with breastfeeding, but to assist with mental health. Breastfeeding has many emotional and health benefits but is a personal decision that should be made based on everyone’s individual family and goals.
Dr. Jessica Windschitl, DO
Dr. Jessica Windschitl, DO is a board-certified Ob/Gyn and FACOOG at Ozark Obstetrics & Gynecology. If you have any questions or concerns around breastfeeding, you can contact Dr. Windschitl’s office at the Freeman Women’s Center, 1532 W. 32nd St., Joplin, MO 64804, 417-347-2525. You can also speak with a certified lactation specialist at Freeman Lactation Services, 417-347-1067.
Breastfeeding Challenges. Committee Opinion 820. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Barriers to Breastfeeding: Supporting Initiation and Continuation of Breastfeeding. Committee Opinion 821. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Optimizing Support for Breastfeeding as Part of Obstetric Practice. Committee Opinion 756. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.