Benefits Of Breast-feeding
Interviewed by Rasa Fournier
Wednesday - June 08, 2011
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Gerri Chock, BSN
Lactation consultant at The Queen’s Medical Center
Where did you receive your schooling and training?
I graduated from UH school of nursing, and I’ve been at Queen’s Medical Center since 1980.
how has the maternity department evolved since you first started?
When I started working at Queen’s, the maternity units were semi-private, with some rooms set up to accommodate three patients. Many rooms had no shower, so everyone had to walk down the hall to get to the shower. In our present maternity unit we have all private rooms. In the 1980s, the nursery was situated in a separate location from the maternity units. Nursing was divided into two groups: nursery nurses and post-partum nurses. The post-partum nurses would take care of the mothers and the nursery nurses would care for the newborn infants. At set times of the day, all babies would be wheeled to their mother’s room, where they would be helped with breast-feeding. After an hour or so, the infants would be returned to the nursery for care and observation. During visiting hours, the babies would be lined up in rows in front of the viewing window.
At the time it was thought that newborn infants needed monitoring and care in the first few days of life, which required skilled nursing and more nursery observation. As a result, mothers really didn’t have enough time to spend with their babies, in my opinion, and consequently, some mothers went home unprepared. At some point, the more appropriate concept evolved that childbirth is a natural process, which changed the thinking and care practices in maternity hospitals around the country. No longer were babies treated as sick patients, and a more holistic approach to maternity and newborn care evolved.
This thinking led to the concept of “mother-baby coupling,” in which nurses cared for both baby and mother as one unit. As a result, there was less fragmentation, and there was continuity of care that provided an improved environment and more opportunity for teaching.
This modern era of maternal infant care led to rooming-in, which is what we have now. As long as the newborn infant is stable, the baby can stay in the mother’s room. Of course, the baby can go back to the nursery if the mother needs a break or for medical indications.
Rooming-in contributes so many positive benefits to both mother and child, and we found that mothers were better prepared to care for their newborn infants after discharge. Rooming-in better prepares mothers to recognize feeding cues and other infant behavior, contributes to bonding and instills confidence with care-giving skills, and promotes positive interaction and happiness. This is especially important to first time mothers who have little knowledge or experience in newborn care. Most people think crying means that a baby is hungry, but the baby may need a diaper change or to be burped, or may just want to be held. These cues are learned through close contact between mother and child.
What are some of the benefits of breast-feeding?
The hormone oxytocin, also called the “feel-good hormone,” is released during breast-feeding and promotes bonding between mother and infant. Other benefits of breast-feeding for the mother are the decrease in breast cancer, uterine and ovarian cancer. After menopause, the literature cites a decrease in heart disease and osteoporosis.
There are so many benefits for the baby. Mother’s milk is the best food for babies, because it is properly proportioned by nature to provide the appropriate balance of protein, fat, carbohydrates, digestibility and caloric content. It reduces the propensity for milk-based formula allergies. Breast milk also provides colostrum in the early days of breast-feeding. Colostrum is rich in immunoglobulins, which is present in breast milk and serves to protect the infant from infections in the first few months of life. This helps keep babies safe and healthy during the period when the infant is deficient in immunoglobulins. This becomes less of a problem as the infant produces his/her own store of these vital protective proteins over the first six months of life.
how long should mothers nurse?
The recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics is that newborn babies exclusively breast feed for six months, and then introduce solid food but continue breast-feeding. It recommends that mothers breast-feed for at least one year, and then as long as you want. However, the World Health Organization recommends continuing breast-feeding for two years.
In Hawaii, we have very high breast-feeding initiation rates. Many mothers deliver their babies intending to breast-feed, but at six months, breast-feeding rate (this includes mixed bottle and breast-feeding) drops to 60 percent.
Why do these mothers stop breast-feeding?
Part of the problem is mothers have to return to work. There is a direct correlation between the duration of breast-feeding and extended maternity leave. It can be a real challenge for a mother to maintain her milk supply when her breast-feeding routine is altered by her work schedule.
What is the most fulfilling part of your job?
I want to help mothers successfully breast-feed - not only breast-feed, but to have a good experience. As a lactation consultant, I discourage the use of formula, but mothers may have difficulty with breast-feeding, or there may be other circumstances that require the use of formula feedings. I want to be supportive in a variety of feeding situations, and do not want to make mothers feel guilty because of my bias toward breast-feeding. I have to go along with what people want and understand the many circumstances that may affect their ability to breast-feed.
I think there’s so much more awareness of the benefits of breast-feeding that when people start looking for where to deliver their babies, they’re going to look for hospitals that support breast-feeding, like Queen’s.
Queen’s Medical Center just became one of the recipients of the IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) Care Recognition Award. The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners and the International Lactation Consultant Association makes this award. We had to document that Queen’s has dedicated positions for lactation consultants and that we support the nursing staff with breast-feeding education.
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