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            Making the decision to become a
parent is a heavy decision.  Parents are
responsible for this bring a new life into the world and nurturing the child
and raising the child to become a successful adult.  Sometimes children can be a surprise or even
a shock maybe an unplanned blessing; other times they may be a blessing that
was a long time in the making; and for some it might all work out the way they
hoped it would.  Bringing a child into
the world brings never-ending decisions and perhaps the most important choice
in the first year is whether to breastfeed or formula feed.  The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months of a baby’s
life, followed by breastfeeding in combination with the introduction of
complementary foods until at least 12 months of age.  While the World Health Organization (WHO)
states that breastfeeding should continue for up to two years or beyond.

            The AAP also says that,
“Breastfeeding is a natural and beneficial source of nutrition and provide the
healthiest start for an infant.  In
addition to the nutritional benefits, breastfeeding promotes a unique and
emotional connection between mother and baby.” 
There are many benefits to providing a child breast milk.  WebMD describes breast milk as a complex
living nutritional fluid containing anti-bodies, enzymes, long chain fatty
acids and hormones.  Breast milk changes with
the infant, a newborn will receive colostrum which is thicker, stickier, and
more yellow in color; it contains up to five million white blood cells in each
milliliter.  After three or four days
‘traditional’ breast milk will come in and the more mature milk will sustain
the infant exclusively for the next 6 months and continue to provide benefits
for many more months.  Breastfeeding also
provided a bonding experience between the mother and new child through physical
closeness, skin to skin contact, and eye contact.  Breastfeeding has also been found to reduce
the risk for SIDs (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.)  An article written by Ashley May for USA Today states, “Any breastfeeding for
two to four months reduced risk by 40%; any breastfeeding for four to six
months reduced risk by 60%; and longer than six months reduced risk by 64%.”

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            There are also many benefits for
mothers who choose to breastfeed. 
Breastfeeding can help burn extra calories which helps new mothers lose
weight gained during the pregnancy.  Another
benefit to help boost a new mother’s confidence is the promoted release of
oxytocin which helps the uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size which results
in less bloating.  Breastfeeding can also
lower the risk of osteoporosis, as well as breast and ovarian cancers.

            The Center for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) reports that in 2003 72.6% of mothers breastfed at all and in
2014 this increased to 82.5%.  Of these
mothers in 2003 only 19.6% continued breastfeeding until 12 months; that means
that 53% quit breastfeeding all together before the one year mark.  In 2014 48.8% quit breast feeding all together
before the one year mark leaving only 33.7% of mothers still
breastfeeding.  Another report from the
CDC concluded that in 2003 10.3% of infants were exclusively breastfed for the
first 6 months of life; and in 2014 this percentage had increased to 24.9%.

            There are many challenges new mothers
face while breastfeeding.  Breastfeeding
is hard work, like any new task it takes time and practice to master.  It is a learning experience for both mother
and for baby, mothers are exhausted from labor and if the infant has a poor
latch it can extremely painful and lead to sore nipples.  Other challenges mothers may come across are
low milk supply, oversupply of milk, strong let down reflex, engorgement,
plugged duct, mastitis, fungal infections, nursing strikes or inverted, flat,
or large nipples.

            There are endless resources
available to breastfeeding mothers.  Many
hospitals now have lactation consultants that work in the mother/baby unit or
are on call for any issues that may arise. 
Once you have left the hospital many areas have visiting nurses or a
phone number to contact a lactation consultant. 
WIC (Women, Infants and Children) offices offer peer counseling groups
through the “Loving Support” breastfeeding promotion campaign.  IBCLC (International Board Certified
Lactation Consultant) in the local area can be found at www.ilca.org. 
The Le Leche League is an international support forum that has a website
and very active social media, there are usual local chapters nearby that
conduct monthly meetings. Support can also be found through social media; they
have created the ability to connect people with common interests all over the
world this is allowing mothers to seek advice from others who have been in their
shoes.  New mothers can seek advice and
find support from women all over the world who can lift them on their worst
days and share their personal experiences.

            One major concern many new mothers
have is the worry that they are not making enough milk or that the infant is
not extracting enough milk.  They worry
because there is no way to truly measure how much milk an infant is getting
from the breast, since it can’t just be poured out and measured.  Sure, they could pump milk and feed from a
bottle but who has time to all that every two to three hours?  Not to mention washing and sanitizing all of
the pump and bottle parts!  A simple
solution is to keep track of wet and soiled diapers and weigh your infant
often. 

            Breastfeeding mothers also may feel
they can never leave their new infant. 
They may fear what lies beyond the front door. Breastfeeding in public
gives many new mothers anxiety.  In the
United States, 49 out of 50 states plus the District of Columbia have law(s)
that protect a publically breastfeeding mother; Idaho is the only state that
does not have a law in place.  Most of
the state laws allow a mother to breastfeed her baby in any locations that they
are otherwise authorized to be.

            Many mothers quit breastfeeding
because they have to return to work.  Some
insurance companies will provide a new mother with a free breast pump and
supplies through a prescription in order to promote breastfeeding.  However, even if the mother has a breast pump
she still needs an employer that will allow extended or more frequent
breaks.  Having a flexible schedule will
help reduce stress levels and aid in her success.  In addition to have the time needed to
express breastmilk a save space is essential. 
The Department of Labor amended the Fair Labor Standards Act adding a
“Break Time for Nursing Mothers Provision” when the Affordable Care Act was
signed into law on March 23, 2010.  “Section
7 of the FLSA requires employers to provide reasonable break time for an
employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the
child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk. Employers
are also required to provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded
from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be
used by an employee to express breast milk.” 
In addition, 22 states and the District of Columbia have state laws that
expand the requirement employers have to accommodate breastfeeding mothers at
work.

            When returning to work,
breastfeeding mothers should try to stick to a schedule to continue their typical
feeding schedule.  There are a few ‘essential’
things to have successful pumping breaks. 
An electric breast pump will be much more convenient then a manual pump
or hand expression.  Along with the pump
it is good to have two sets of pumping parts so there is a backup if something
breaks or is missing. Storage bottles or bags for the breastmilk and sanitizing
accessories for the pump parts. For the mother herself it is good to have water
on hand, and probably a snack since breastfeeding burns so many calories.  Looking at pictures of the baby also helps
stimulate milk flow and is incredibly easy if mothers have a hands free pumping
brassiere.  A hands free pumping
brassiere also allows mothers to take a break and read a book or magazine or to
continue working while pumping.

            It is essential to store breast milk
properly.  Breast milk can be stored at
room temperature (up to 77°F) for six to
eight hours, in an insulated cooler bag (5-39°F) for 24
hours, in the refrigerator (39°F) for 5
days, in a freezer that is a compartment of a refrigerator (5°F) for two weeks, in a freezer compartment of a refrigerator with separate
doors (0°F) for three to six months, or in
a deep freezer (-4°F) for six to
twelve months. To thaw frozen breast milk it is best to transfer it to a refrigerator
and use within 24 hours or place the container in warm but not hot water.  Breast milk should not be microwaved; heat
can destroy the nutrient quality of expressed breast milk.

            Breastfeeding is a full time job,
each nursing period should be 20 to 45 minutes long and each period should
occur eight to twelve times a day or every two to three hours.  If an infant nurses twelve times a day for 30
minutes each time that would equate to 360 minutes or 6 hours per day; 6 hours
a day, 7 days a week comes out to be 42 hours a week.  So 42 hours a week a mother will spend just
nursing her baby, this is not a small undertaking; it takes commitment.

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