Editor's note: This is the second of a two-part series. The first part appeared on Friday's Neighbor's page.
I continued my discussion with Debi Ballam, RN, IBCLC, about breastfeeding and how she supports local women in their efforts. One support group she facilitates is Baby Parent Time. This group meets weekly on Thursdays from noon to 1:30 p.m. on the first floor of the administration building at Bartlett Regional Hospital. This popular group supports new parents through the challenges of baby's first year. Parents share concerns and ideas, topics of interest to the group are presented and older babies get to play together. All parents with babies 0-12 months are invited.
What advice do you have for the breastfeeding woman who must return to work a few months after her baby is born?
We live in a society where mothers often need return to work when their babies are still quite young. Returning to work can be one of the biggest challenges in maintaining breastfeeding. It's important to make plans beforehand to ensure success.
Some mothers can work out creative plans with their employer such as: working from home for a time; working a flexible schedule so dad can care for baby while mom is at work; job sharing; bringing baby to work with them; starting back half days for the first week or so; starting back on a Wednesday or Thursday makes the first week back to work a short one; and using the new Family Leave Act to take an extended leave of absence to be home with their infant, etc.
Employers who support a woman's decision to breastfeed benefit themselves. Parents will be less likely to have to call in sick to take care of an ill child because breastfed kids are healthier.
If a mom must be separated from her infant, then she can do the following: A few weeks before returning to work, a mother can start expressing and storing her milk. Some women can hand express or use a small hand pump. Many women find a dual, self-cycling electric pump works best for them, especially if returning to work full-time. Milk can then be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week and in the freezer for up to six months. If a mother practices expressing her milk before returning to work, it makes pumping less stressful and gives her confidence that she will have enough milk to leave with her baby's care provider.
What's wrong with introducing infant formula?
A baby who is introduced to a foreign protein, such as is found in cow's milk formula or soy-based formula, before 6 months of age is at increased risk for developing an autoimmune illness such as asthma, diabetes and thyroid disease. Formula-fed infants get more ear infections and have poorer antibody response to immunizations. A mother who ends up introducing formula on a regular basis may also risk losing her milk supply, often within four to six weeks.
What do you say to women who, despite their best efforts, find they have to supplement with infant formula?
Some women, for medical reasons, must give their baby formula. While it may not be the ideal milk for their baby, it is a safe and nutritious substitute, and they can still give their baby lots of skin-to-skin contact, cuddling and closeness. Some women who return to work find they are not able to pump enough milk for their baby's needs and have to supplement with formula. A woman should not feel guilty if she finds herself in this situation because even partial breastfeeding is beneficial. If she can breastfeed when she's with her baby, she'll know she's giving her baby the gift that only she can give - and it's a gift that will last a lifetime.
What Web sites do you recommend as resources for breastfeeding moms?
Three Web sites that are user-friendly and have reliable information are: www.breastfeeding.com, www.lalecheleague.com and www.alaskabreastfeeding.com.
The following organizations provide local help and support to women who breastfeed:
Bartlett Regional Hospital - Bartlett Beginnings, 586-8424
Juneau Family Birth Center, 586-1203
Juneau Public Health Center, 465-3353
La Leche League, 463-3653
Mother's Milk Unlimited (breast pump rentals), 789-9841
SEARHC Clinic (SEARHC-eligible clients only), 463-4092
Southeast Alaska Medical Suppliers, Inc. (breastfeeding supplies), 586-6880
Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program, 463-4099
Susan Hennon works as a nutrition educator for the Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC), a supplemental food program for eligible pregnant and breastfeeding women, infants and children up to age 5. WIC is administered by the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Corporation (SEARHC) in Southeast Alaska.
The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) sponsors World Breastfeeding Week. The theme this year is "Breastfeeding: Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies."