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Published on July 30, 2013

Help Mothers Meet Breastfeeding Challenges

By KIM RICHTER, Avera St. Luke’s Breastfeeding Center

Mothers face many challenges as they strive to meet their breastfeeding goals. World Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1-7, is celebrated across the world, with this year’s theme “Breastfeeding Support: Close to Mothers.”

Everyone plays a part in supporting mothers to continue breastfeeding their babies, from family and friends, to health care providers and employers, plus government policies and even the stranger in a public place.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends babies be breastfed one year or longer for optimum health and disease prevention. The U.S. Surgeon General says, “If 90 percent of families followed these guidelines to exclusively breastfeed for six months, almost 1,000 babies would be saved and the United States would save $13 billion a year.” Breastfeeding keeps babies healthier and helps ensure a healthy life into adulthood. Mothers also reap the benefits of breastfeeding with quicker healing, increased bonding, and decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Keeping breastfeeding high on the public health agenda is critical to improving health and lowering the risk of disease.

Avera St. Luke’s Hospital has a long-standing commitment to the health of our community. Avera Breastfeeding Center was developed to provide inpatient and post-discharge education, and outpatient expertise and support to families in our community. “Nurturing New Families” was developed 20 years ago as a post-discharge program to ensure that mothers and their newborn infants receive timely help in identifying early challenges, such as poor feeding, weight loss, and jaundice. This has resulted in drastically reduced readmissions of newborn infants for the consequences of feeding difficulties, as well as providing support and encouragement to mothers to continue successful, long-term breastfeeding.

As a registered nurse and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), I coordinate the only program of its kind in the area at Avera St. Luke’s Hospital. We are here to help women meet their breastfeeding goals. We see mothers and babies while in the hospital, call them the day after they are discharged from the hospital, and are available any time a mother has questions or concerns regarding breastfeeding.

This free service is offered to anyone requiring breastfeeding assistance, including mothers, physicians, employers, teachers and the general public. Since the program’s inception, our breastfeeding rates have gone from 58 percent of women initiating breastfeeding to more than 90 percent this year, with more than 35 percent of these mothers continuing to breastfeed their children through the first year. These rates are far above the national and state averages, proving that education and support can make a difference.

So, next time you see a mother nursing her baby in public, give her a “thumbs up”! Let’s continue to support a baby’s right to eat anywhere a mother has a legal right to be. Let’s continue to make our workplaces “mother-friendly” by creating a positive environment. Let’s make our community the healthiest we can by supporting breastfeeding!

For more information or questions about breastfeeding, contact Kim Richter at 605-622-5749.