But it’s not always the easiest choice for moms
From the moment a woman learns she is pregnant, her world can be overwhelmed with questions and decisions. A lot has to be determined in the nine months before a baby arrives, and one of the most important and personal decisions is whether to breastfeed.
For some moms, like Holly Martin of Roanoke, making the decision to breastfeed is an easy, natural one. For others it can be a struggle.
“Even though my mom struggled to breastfeed and I didn’t grow up around it, I knew I wanted that bonding experience,” said Martin. “Breastfeeding was something that was very important to me.”
According to Tracey Zadell, a Carilion Clinic lactation consultant, while breast milk has been determined to be the best for babies because it’s easier to digest, has special nutrients, and protects against infections and disease, “deciding to breastfeed is a far too personal decision for anyone else to decide besides a mom,” she said.
For Martin, though her decision to breastfeed was easy, other challenges arose. Her daughter didn’t latch on easily, so Martin, with the help of the lactation consultants at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, had to try several different techniques.
“She just wasn’t interested,” Martin said. “But I was determined to make it work.”
Martin had to use a nipple shield to help with her personal discomfort and in hopes of getting her daughter more interested. She also used a supplemental nursing system (SNS) to help enhance milk production and milk flow for her baby. While both of these helped, neither was a foolproof solution.
“I just kept telling myself that one day it would work,” Martin said. “And it did!”
One of the biggest challenges moms face is milk production. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as turning on and off a faucet.
“Establishing a good milk supply is crucial in the first two weeks after the baby is born,” Zadell said. “Then milk production is sustained by feeding the baby when they’re hungry and at least eight to 10 times a day.”
Milk supply can also fluctuate with added stresses, like returning to work after maternity leave.
“It’s so important moms try to build up a supply of breast milk before heading back to work,” Zadell said. “It’s normal for added stress to weaken milk supply.”
Angela Kinzie, a Carilion Clinic lactation consultant, said it’s also helpful to have a plan in place well before the baby arrives and to talk with your employer about your desire to breastfeed and how you can adapt it into your work day.
“Under the law any employer with 50 employees or more, must provide a place for new moms to breastfeed, other than a bathroom,” Kinzie said. “By communicating with your employer, expectations can be discussed and surprises can be avoided.”
While having the support of family and friends isn’t always necessary, it can be crucial to a new mom’s breastfeeding success.
“My husband and my mother were always there for me,” Martin said. “And knowing the Carilion Clinic lactation consultants were also just a phone call away was very comforting.”
For more information on Carilion Clinic’s lactation services, including breastfeeding help, products, and educational classes, please call 800-422-8482.
Laura Markowski is a writer for Carilion Clinic’s marketing communications department.