World Breastfeeding Week took place recently, and this year’s theme “Breastfeeding Support: Close to Mothers”, highlighted the importance of providing support to breastfeeding families.
Infant feeding is one of the most important decisions that new families make. Evidence is clear that breastfeeding is the ideal way to feed an infant. Research shows that infants who are not exclusively breastfed for their first six months of life are more likely to develop a wide range of chronic and acute diseases, including ear infections, diarrhoeal diseases, asthma, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, obesity and respiratory illnesses. Mothers also benefit from breastfeeding with a decreased risk for breast and ovarian cancers.
Despite most mothers wanting to breastfeed, many are met with multiple and complex barriers that keep them from achieving their personal breastfeeding goals. Support and encouragement from all angles can make success possible for mothers who wish to breastfeed. Negative attitudes and practices of the mother’s closest support network can pose a sizeable barrier, making it difficult for mothers and babies to successfully breastfeed. “Learning how to breastfeed takes time and patience for new mothers and infants. It is important to remember that families, friends, healthcare providers, employers, childcare providers, communities, and even the media play a crucial role in mother’s overall success with breastfeeding,” said Margaret Murphy, President of the Association of Lactation Consultants in Ireland.
Appropriate breastfeeding support can build a mother’s confidence with breastfeeding. It is critical that breastfeeding families be supported by their community. This support can be expressed by healthcare providers adopting policies and practices that assume breastfeeding as the normal feeding method for infants, by employers providing a private place and flexible work options to express breastmilk during the work day, or by childcare providers talking to new families about how they support breastfeeding. Breastfeeding peer counsellors, mother-to-mother support groups, and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant® (IBCLC®) certificants work in communities and can provide a wealth of knowledge to breastfeeding families.
An IBCLC is a certified healthcare professional with special knowledge and experience assisting breastfeeding families. The IBCLC can work in a variety of environments from hospitals to private practice to community health settings. Many work with employers and businesses to help establish worksite lactation support programs. Mothers can also find a local IBCLC to help them with breastfeeding questions and concerns by visiting the “Find a Lactation Consultant” Directory here on the ALCI website.
World Breastfeeding Week is coordinated globally by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA).