ANDERSON – Breastfeeding your baby — it’s natural, it’s healthy and it strengthens bonds. Sure, it takes a little practice, but who wouldn’t want to give their baby the best possible start in life?
“There’s every reason to do it,” said Elizabeth Arnett, RN, international board certified lactation consultant, and lactation services coordinator at Community Hospital Anderson. “It’s the optimum choice of nutrition for infants.” She points out, after all, “A baby’s body is made for the mom’s milk.”
Arnett said that babies who are breastfed enjoy nutrition that’s easy for them to digest and that imparts numerous health benefits. Those include lower rates of disease like ear infections, respiratory infections, asthma, allergies, gastrointestinal disorders, diabetes and SIDS. At the same time, breastfeeding gives baby that all important skin-to-skin contact that not only enhances healthy emotional bonding, it helps to regulate heart and respiratory rates, brings up glucose levels and helps to keep baby warm.
“You put them skin-to-skin, that baby just chills out,” said Arnett.
Babies aren’t the only ones to benefit. Moms enjoy many health advantages, too. They experience decreased risk of breast cancer, post-partum hemorrhage, ovarian and cervical cancers, and more.
Breastfeeding also has real financial advantages since formula is very expensive. There are also environmental advantages since there are no containers to toss, and there’s no risk of contamination.
“Breastfeeding is pretty amazing,” said Arnett. “There’s so many reasons why you should do it.”
The 2013 Breastfeeding Report Card issued by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that the percentage of infants nationwide who begin breastfeeding is 77 percent. Indiana’s figure stands at 63.6. At Community Hospital Anderson, in a region that’s faced its share of socio-economic challenges, they’re proud to say that their initiation rate is 71 percent.
“Every year we see increases,” said Arnett. She noted that when Community first established its support program in 2001, that rate was in the low 40s.
In 2005, Community earned the Baby-Friendly designation recognizing its dedication to support breastfeeding and mother/baby bonding. Community is one of only five Baby-Friendly facilities in Indiana. In the United States, only 166 facilities have earned the Baby-Friendly stamp awarded through a global initiative of the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund.
Community Hospital Anderson was recently awarded a $37,000 grant from the CDC to help educate and promote breastfeeding. In addition to resource materials, training and promotion, part of the grant money is being used to set up lactation stations in the community.
Despite the numerous advantages, Arnett said that the biggest barrier to breastfeeding is lack of support. At one time, baby formula was the “new kid on the block,” and many new moms today were formula-fed themselves. Their mothers and grandmothers may not see exactly why you wouldn’t formula feed now.
Arnett said that Community hosts two support groups every week to provide encouragement, education and a social network for breastfeeding moms. The groups are free and available to anyone, and they’re popular — drawing 62 moms and babies to a typical support group session last week.
“It is so empowering for them to come to group,” said Arnett. “Their confidence just starts to grow.”
Arnett is fired up about the kind of support Community has developed.
“It is a passion. It’s not a job,” said Arnett. “Breast is best.”
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