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Public Health Column for the Times-News

Essential support for breastfeeding moms

Published: Wednesday, August 3, 2016

By KIM HORTON
Health Department columnist

Kelly always knew she wanted to breastfeed her baby, but after Jack was born, she began questioning herself. Breastfeeding seemed harder than she had imagined, and she wondered if her new little boy was getting enough nutrients. When she tried breastfeeding Jack in a restaurant, several people stared at her even though she was covered. She still hasn't figured out how to return to work and continue to breastfeed Jack. With no family close by, Kelly feels isolated and wonders where to turn to for help.

Kelly's concerns are not unusual. One of the first decisions a new mom makes is whether or not to breastfeed. It's a personal choice, but one that can benefit both mother and child. Just the experience of breastfeeding is special for a new mother because of the closeness and bonding with her baby.

In addition, breastfeeding can help with healing following childbirth. Long-term, it can lead to a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes, certain types of breast cancer and ovarian cancer in mothers.

For baby, the breast milk has cells, hormones and antibodies to protect from illness, and the protection is unique and changes to meet the baby's needs. Research suggests that breastfed babies have lower risks of asthma, childhood obesity, ear infections, eczema, diarrhea, vomiting and sudden infant death syndrome.

But even with all these health benefits, new moms who don't have proper support and education about breast-feeding can feel anxious, which leads to a greater likelihood that they will stop nursing. In fact, there is a sharp decline in breastfeeding rates in the weeks or months after delivery, even when a mother gets off to a good start.

An essential element for sustained breastfeeding is a community support system that encourages the breastfeeding mom. The traditional way has been through family support as mothers, grandmothers and even friends and neighbors have passed down their own hands-on experience. But as society has changed, so has that support circle. Families have branched out and moved away from their familiar supports.

Fortunately in Henderson County, breastfeeding moms can find such support through the Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program, which is part of the Nutrition Services Division at the Department of Public Health. New mothers who enroll receive help and answers to their questions about breastfeeding from experienced moms.

"We know that women are drawn to other women with whom they share life experiences, especially when those experiences involve parenting," said Lori Bradley who is a Certified Breastfeeding Consultant. "A peer counselor is invaluable for helping a new mother gain confidence in her ability to breastfeed."

This mother-to-mother support has proved to be one of the most successful approaches for encouraging mothers to breastfeed their babies. It's a worthy program to recognize during World Breastfeeding Week, a yearly celebration that highlights the breastfeeding efforts of mothers in their communities in more than 174 countries. Participants protect, promote and support the benefits of breastfeeding to the public. For example:

  • Breastfeeding saves lives. Recent research shows that if 90 percent of families breastfed exclusively for 6 months, nearly 1,000 deaths among infants could be prevented.
  • Breastfeeding saves money. Medical care costs are lower for fully breastfed infants than never-breastfed infants. Breastfed infants usually need fewer sick care visits, prescriptions and hospitalizations. Breastfeeding also means food security for infants.
  • Breastfeeding also helps make a more productive workforce. Mothers who breastfeed miss less work to care for sick infants than mothers who feed their infants formula. But it can be challenging for a mom to work and breastfeed. Employers can be supportive by providing designated lactation rooms and breastfeeding breaks.
  • Breastfeeding is better for the environment. Formula cans and bottle supplies create more trash and plastic waste. Breast milk is a renewable resource that comes packaged and warmed.

The mother who chooses to breastfeed is investing in her baby's future. The breast milk is truly the perfect food that only a mother can produce that protects and gives her baby a healthy start that will last a lifetime. What a guarantee!

For more information about the Peer-to-Peer Breastfeeding Program, contact the Breastfeeding Program Manager Lori Bradley at 828-694-6028, or call a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor:

  • Tammie Bogin at 828-694-6030 (English)
  • Jocelyn Chavez at 828-694-6031 (Spanish)

To learn more about the Women, Infants, and Children Program, visit the health department's website hendersoncountync.org/health and select the Nutrition Services link.


Kimberly Horton is the communications manager at the Henderson County Department of Public Health. She can be reached at khorton@hendersoncountync.org.

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Department of Public Health • 1200 Spartanburg Highway, Suite 100 • Hendersonville, NC 28792 • (828) 692-4223