Breastfeeding can be best option: experts

Although most health-care professionals agree breastfeeding newborn babies and infants is best for the baby, some babies have trouble “latching on” to a nipple, but that’s a problem that can be fairly easily corrected.

Jean Ballone, International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and Women’s Infants and Children (WIC) coordinator at the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department in Hancock, said breastfeeding should be done whenever possible.

“Breast milk is made for that baby,” she said. “There are very many reasons a woman should breast feed.”

Breast milk contains all the nutrients a baby needs for the first six months of life, including antibodies, vitamins and other factors babies need to prevent illness, Ballone said. Locally, some doctors may prescribe a vitamin D supplement because of the lack of sunshine in this northern climate.

Ballone said research has shown breastfed babies have a lower risk of becoming overweight, or developing cancer or asthma, and other illnesses.

If a baby doesn’t latch on to nurse, Ballone said there could be a few reasons, including just the fact that baby and mother might not be sure what to do.

“Sometimes it’s a learning process,” she said. “It’s very individual.”

There are a couple physical problems called lip tied and tongue tied in which the frenulum – the bit of tissue holding down the tongue – keeps the baby’s tongue flat or the floor of the mouth rises when the baby cries, which could hinder a baby’s ability to latch on, Ballone said. Both problems can be remedied surgically.

“They clip those and babies are able to feed better,” she said.

Ballone said the WIC program is very supportive of breastfeeding, and encourages it with their clients.

“About 82 percent of our women initiate breastfeeding,” she said.

Ballone said the mother’s health can be improved with breastfeeding, also. There is a lower risk of ovarian and breast cancer, Type II diabetes, and heart disease. There is also a lower risk of developing post-partum depression.

Joye Battisfore, IBCLC and registered nurse at U.P. Health System-Portage, said breast milk actually changes as the baby grows.

“Breastfeeding also lowers the baby’s risk for ear infections, vomiting, diarrhea, pneumonia, urinary-tract infections, and may reduce the risk for allergies,” she said. “Early breastfeeding and skin to skin contact may have physical and emotional benefits as well.”

Battisfore said the U.S. Surgeon General, the World Health Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecologists all recommend exclusive breastfeeding for six months then continued breastfeeding with complimentary foods introduced and continuation of breastfeeding for one year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant.

Battisfore said although a large percentage of mothers may start breastfeeding at birth, the number drops dramatically after they take the baby home.

“Seventy-nine percent of moms and babies nationwide start out breastfeeding while in hospital, but only 27 percent are breastfeeding at 12 months, according to CDC’s Breastfeeding Report Card from 2014,” she said. “Michigan’s breastfeeding statistics are even less with 75.3 percent of babies ever breastfed, 46.6 percent with any amount of breastfeeding at six months (only 16.2 percent do exclusive breastfeeding) and any amount of breastfeeding at 23.3 percent at 12 months.”

Battisfore said there are several reasons why a baby may not nurse.

“Sometimes tired moms and dads miss the feeding cues,” she said. “Sometimes the delivery or medications can make the baby sleepy.”

Sometimes an an anatomy issue on mom, such as flat or inverted nipples, or on baby, such as a tongue tie that prevents a deep latch, can be the cause of the problem.

There are other problems, which may exist with the baby, Battisfore said.

“Preterm babies can have poor tone and lack the coordination for nursing,” she said. “Some babies have little patience as they are learning to nurse and clench, cry, sleep, or have frantic movements when nursing attempts are made.”

There are methods to get restless babies calmed down for nursing, Battisfore said.

“Place the baby on mom’s chest to initiate skin to skin as soon as possible after birth,” she said. “Dad or another support person can also hold the infant skin to skin to help calm a fussy or crying baby if mom is unable to or is sleeping. Many newborn procedures can be done while the baby is on mom’s chest.”

Noticing feeding cues is important for the mother, as well as the father and other people who may be around the baby, Battisfore said.

Finding the best feeding positions for mother and baby is important to make certain the baby will latch on, Battisfore said.

“Teach mom how to recognize the signs of a good latch and milk transfer and to ask for help if unsure,” she said. “A good latch starts with a calm baby. A crying baby will not latch.”

Battisfore said there is help for mothers who are having trouble with breastfeeding, including getting the baby to latch on.

“Work in coordination with patient’s obstetrician, the baby’s pediatrician, and other providers, such as community or hospital based IBCLC’s or WIC for optimal breastfeeding experience,” she said.

Ballone said she can be reached at at the health department at 482-7382 extension 178.