by Sarah Davis, Clinic Supervisor, Kent Primary Care
Breastfeeding can be one of the most empowering experiences families can share. There are numerous health benefits for both child and the chest or breastfeeding parent. The human body is filled with incredible systems to support one another. One instance is the connection between breastfeeding and pregnancy recovery—when breastfeeding is initiated, the uterus is signaled to contract which helps the uterus begin to shrink to its appropriate non-pregnant size. The first milk produced, called colostrum or “liquid gold” is high in nutrients and antibodies which strengthen and nourish a newborn. Other benefits to pregnancy recovery include the prevention of cervical and ovarian cancers; the production of oxytocin through skin-to-skin connection, which is correlates to elevated mood; and further bonding with the baby which provides an incredible opportunity for emotional nurturing and development.
On the contrary to these benefits, breast or chestfeeding is not always a glamorous or easy task. Community support is often integral to successful breastfeeding. Lactation support, such as that offered through Valley Medical Center’s Lactation Consultant services, supplies invaluable information surrounding pregnancy, birth transitions, and what to expect after birth. While our Lactation Consultants follow national and global recommendations for one to two years of breastfeeding including six months of exclusive breastfeeding, it is important to understand that this advice is not easily accomplished for all breastfeeding parents. There is a wide variety of obstacles that many breastfeeding parents face including continuing education, returning to work or school, levels of support at home, financial barriers, or health concerns and conditions. Additionally, personal influences such as cultural and body image stigmas can lead to fear, trauma, and lack of confidence.
Breastfeeding is often not highlighted when considering social justice movements, so as we celebrate and promote the topic of breastfeeding, it is important to consider cultural and social impacts. The community that we serve as well as the staff who fill our halls are all incredibly diverse. Determinants of breastfeeding are impacted by income, education, nationality/race/ethnicity, age, marital status, region of residence, birth weight, and birth order among other factors. Through our articles this month, we will dive deeper into populations that are most impacted by poor maternal and infant health outcomes correlated with breastfeeding Native and Indigenous, Asian American Pacific Islander, and Black communities.
Learn more about the challenges and successes of breastfeeding from Valley caregivers:
- Overcoming the Challenges of Breastfeeding by Kathrina Chow, RN, IBCLC, a member of the Filipino community
- Breastfeeding Empowerment by Memorie Gladstone, IMH-E®, CD, CLC Lead Outreach Doula, a member of the Blackfeet tribe
- Celebrating Breastfeeding Success at Valley by lactation consultant Megan Stevens, DNP, RN-BC, IBCLC
Photo courtesy of World Breastfeeding Week