(BPT) - No one argues the benefits of breastfeeding – 77 percent of babies start out being breastfed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The problem is that six months later, only 16 percent of babies are exclusively breastfed.What’s causing the significant drop off?
Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Surgeon General recommend exclusive breastfeeding until six months of age. And while breastfeeding and breast-pumping rates continue to grow, according to research from Medela, only 30 percent of moms are satisfied with their ability to meet their goals as well as national goals for breastfeeding.
Though breastfeeding is natural, the technique is a learned skill. Many new moms struggle with the task within the first months of their baby’s life, and frustrations paired with difficulties cause them to give up too quickly.
Moms-to-be can increase the likelihood of breastfeeding success with the right education and appropriate tools. Here are five expert tips for expectant parents to prepare themselves for a successful breastfeeding journey:
1. Get tools and supplies covered by the Affordable Care Act.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is redefining health care in America, and breastfeeding moms in particular are benefitting. While changes vary among insurance plans, the ACA now requires insurance companies to cover breastfeeding support and supplies. This may include lactation consultation, breast pumps and other health supplies needed for moms and babies to successfully breastfeed. For information on the ACA, how to talk to your insurance provider and more, visit www.breastfeedinginsurance.com. It’s important to have your questions answered and to be as knowledgeable as possible before baby arrives.
2. Educate yourself before baby’s arrival.
Reading books and watching videos can be extremely helpful for moms-to-be who want to breastfeed. Because there is a lot to learn, an online class can be particularly beneficial. The Medela Breastfeeding University is a 90-minute online course developed by health care professionals that walks moms through what to expect during pregnancy as their bodies change, what to expect at the hospital, how to transition at home and work, and even what fathers and grandparents can do to support breastfeeding efforts. Available in both English and Spanish, the $25 course fee will be donated to the Ronald McDonald House, plus moms who complete the course will receive a $25 coupon for a breastfeeding Accessory Starter Set. Visit medelabreastfeedingu.com to learn more.
Use the code RELjN5GmY for a free registration for Medela Breastfeeding University in English, and use code RELSPqT6XAK to register in Spanish. Moms who use the free registration codes and complete the course are still eligible to receive the $25 coupon.
3. Build a support system
Breastfeeding takes time and dedication. Having a support system can help women overcome obstacles and successfully breastfeed for six months or longer. Spouses, family members and friends can all provide important support. Expert support can help as well, particularly when it comes to overcoming any hurdles such as latching problems or low-supply concerns. Consider meeting with a certified lactation consultant or join a support organization like La Leche League International or the Nursing Mothers' Council. Your local Women, Infants and Children (WIC) office can also provide excellent breastfeeding support.
4. Prepare for comfortable breastfeeding at home
A few items can make breastfeeding at home easier and more comfortable for moms and babies. Some top supplies to consider stocking at home include a breastfeeding pillow to help support and position baby correctly, a rocking chair or glider, and multiple burping clothes to quickly clean up messes. Nursing bras, washable or disposable bra pads, and lanolin ointment are helpful also. Some women like to stock their breastfeeding area with bottled water, small snacks or reading material that they can enjoy while bonding with baby.
5. Prepare for heading back to work
With the right tools and a little preparation, mothers can continue breastfeeding while working. Federal law states employers must provide reasonable break times for employees to express breast milk for one year after a child’s birth. Employers must also provide a comfortable, private area that is free of intrusion, other than the bathroom. Talk with your employer or human resources contact about your intent to express milk during work hours. A double-electric pump and storage containers are good supplies to keep at work. Expressed milk can be safely stored at room temperature for four to six hours, in the refrigerator for three to eight days at 39 degrees or lower, and in the freezer for six to 12 months at 4 degrees or lower, according to www.BreastmilkGuidelines.com.
Stay connected to your baby, even when you’re not there. To learn more, visit www.medela.com.