During National Breastfeeding Month this August, the Family Ties Birthing Center at Coliseum Medical Centers encourages community members to support nursing mothers.
The recommended period of time for mothers to breastfeed their newborn babies is twelve months, but many women who breastfeed in public or pump in the workplace are met with less-than-accepting attitudes.
Cathy Sumner, Director of Women's Services at Coliseum Medical Centers, says, "Breastfeeding is an important part of the health of a baby. We can improve lives just by giving new moms and their families our support and understanding for breastfeeding."
The health benefits to baby are fairly well known - such as decreased risk of infection and childhood obesity - but the health benefits to mothers are often overlooked. Breastfeeding mothers also experience long-term positive impacts from breastfeeding, including a reduced risk of getting certain cancers. These health benefits mean smaller healthcare costs for breastfeeding babies and their mothers.
"We recommend moms exclusively feed their babies breastmilk for the first six months after birth, says Dr. Felisha Kitchen, Chief of Obstetrics at Coliseum Medical Centers. "We also recommend moms keep breastfeeding, combined with other food sources, for another six months after that."
New moms may quickly realize this isn't as easy as it sounds, especially when they return to work and have to pump while away from the baby. According to the CDC, in 2015 only about 16 percent of working women with newborns manage to breastfeed their babies exclusively for six months.
Dr. Kitchen said, "The sad truth is that women often feel employers and coworkers think pumping on the job means a woman isn't handling her workload as required - Or, worse, that it isn't "natural" or "tasteful" for her to breastfeed during the day. It's time for a change in this attitude."
Employers play a vital role in supporting the mother. Sumner, said, "It's important that companies understand that their support of women who pump at work helps to retain good employees and lowers healthcare costs and absenteeism."
Sumner suggests that new moms talk with their human resources departments to help them gain support and understanding. They should be transparent with their contacts in these departments if they feel other employees or managers are making them uncomfortable with this natural and healthy act.
She also has advice for friends and family of breastfeeding women. "Breastfeeding a newborn can be challenging while a mother is learning how to feed her baby. She is also juggling lack of sleep and adjusting to adding a family member. When she isn't receiving support from her friends and family, however, breastfeeding can seem difficult, if not impossible. It's important that we support moms when they need that support the most!"
For more information on the Family Ties Birthing Center at Coliseum Medical Centers, visit their website at www.coliseumdelivers.com or call (478) 746-4646.