Amy's Corner. our lactation consultant answers your questions about nursing.

Breastfeeding and the Working Mom

Returning to work after having a baby is a double-edged sword for many moms who intend to breastfeed for the AAP’s recommendation of one year.  On the one hand, moms want to provide their babies with the best possible nutrition that protects them from many illnesses and diseases, improves their cognition and creates a lasting bond between mother and child.  But working moms also want to be productive in the workplace and not seen as “absent” during critical times during the work day.

Maintaining breast milk for babies when mom returns to work is tough, but it absolutely can be done.  And the good news is, the law is on mom’s side.  The “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” Law passed in 2010 is part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.  It requires employers to provide break time and a private space for mothers to feed their babies or pump during work hours until the baby reaches one year of age.

breastfeeding and the working momBut even with this law, many mothers struggle to reach their breastfeeding goals.  A recent study published in the Journal of Human Lactation showed that less than 30% of full-time working moms who intended to breastfeed for three months were able to meet that goal.  It also indicated that when a mother returns to work effects how long she will be able to provide breast milk.  Moms who resumed full time work before six weeks were 2.25 times less likely to make it to three months, and those who returned between six weeks and three months were 1.82 times less likely to meet the goal.  Part-time working moms fared better.

Laws protect working mothers’ right to breastfeed because it is important to individual and public health for babies to get proper nutrition from birth.  And breastfeeding rates in the U.S. have increased over the past decade.  Yet most moms still do not meet the recommended six months of exclusive breastfeeding and one year of continued breastfeeding.

Many women face barriers to breastfeeding including not being educated on the benefits to mom and baby, not having proper support to navigate the logistics and challenges of breastfeeding and being subjected to misconceptions about breastfeeding.  Working mothers face additional challenges due to time constraints, pressure to perform at work, additional responsibilities at home, and physical separation from their babies for long periods of time, which can affect milk supply and a baby’s desire to breastfeed.  Even when employers cooperate, which they do not all do despite the laws protecting mothers, many mothers feel unspoken tension from supervisors or put pressure on themselves.

Working moms who are committed to breastfeeding can take some preliminary steps to ensure they meet their goals.  First, take as much maternity leave as your company will allow to lay the foundation for a great breastfeeding relationship with your baby.  Before you return, speak to your employer about your intentions to pump during the work day and establish expectations on both sides.

When you return to work, invest in a quality breast pump, ideally one that pumps both breasts at the same time and is hands free.  Pump as much as possible during the day and make sure you have easy access to a refrigerator or freeze to store your milk.

Prepare your baby for your transition back to work too.  Start offering occasional bottles of breast milk weeks before you head back to the office so your baby can get used to the difference between your nipple and a bottle nipple.  Find the ideal child care situation, whether it is on-site day care where you can pop in for feedings as time permits, or a care giver who is supportive and knowledgeable about your intention to provide your baby breast milk.  Train your care giver on how and when you want your baby to be fed.

We champion all moms who want to provide breast milk to their babies.  Working mothers face additional challenges but we support them 100%.  If you are planning to go back to work soon, be sure to take good care of yourself too.  Happy babies start with happy mommies.  We wish you much breastfeeding success at home and at work!

Breastfeeding and Babywearing

In these modern mobile times, we can do almost anything on the go, and that includes breastfeeding.  You’re probably used to multi-tasking your lunch or a quick snack and so can your baby, especially when you are wearing her.  It’s called babywearing and we highly recommend it.

Using a sling during breastfeeding is actually not a modern concept at all.  But it certainly helps out the modern mom who is active and busy.  Breastfeeding can be time consuming, a true labor of love.  So when you’re in a time crunch to get chores done around the house or need to be out-and-about, babywearing can be an excellent way to multi-task.  Your hands are free to eat, take care of another child, do some housework or jump on your computer for a few minutes.  You can’t beat that convenience!

breastfeeding and babywearingBabies love to snuggle up with mom and a sling offers closeness, warmth and a little discretion if you’re out in public.  Slings can also organize a baby into a better nursing position to encourage suck and latch.  Because it is similar to skin-to-skin contact, babywearing can improve your babies desire to breastfeed and encourage let downs.  Plus babies carried in slings are typically calmer and cry less because they are warm, can feel and hear mother’s heartbeat and enjoy natural, soothing rocking while mom moves around.  It’s actually much like the womb so it helps transition newborns into this big bright world of ours.

Another advantage of babywearing is the developmental benefits it offers your little one.  Your faces are close together, which will help your baby get to know you and your expressions as her vision becomes more acute.  You can make eye contact and googly eyes at one another!  She’ll also hear your voice constantly as you do your daily tasks, which helps her understand language and cadence from a young age.  The vibration of your voice has a soothing effect as well.

There are many versions of baby slings that make terrific choices for babywearing.  Some look like a loop that you toss over one shoulder and place your baby on one side.  Others are longer strips of cloth that you wrap around your waist and shoulders for extra support and can completely cover your baby during breastfeeding or while she’s sleeping.  These are better when you plan to be more active.

There are yet more choices for babywearing if you are using it at not feeding times, like front or back carriers.  These are similar to bookbags for your chest or back.  While not ideally situated for breastfeeding, these allow you to be mobile and have use of your hands.  Plus they are great for dads as well!  Some pack-type carriers come with an inner wrap that offers more support for newborns, and also cover pads for the shoulder harnesses that your baby may use for sucking or teething.

We hope you’ll give babywearing a go.  We bet your baby will love being wrapped up warmly next to you while you are being super productive throughout your day.  Seriously, what could be better than giving your baby her most wholesome meal while checking off your to-do list at the same time?  We thought you’d agree!

World Breastfeeding Week: The State of Breastfeeding

Hooray!  It’s World Breastfeeding Week!  We love to celebrate breastfeeding all year long, but during this time of year, the world celebrates with us.

Breastfeeding with Leading LadySo what are we celebrating during World Breastfeeding Week?  First of all, the health of our babies, of course.  Breast milk is quite possibly the perfect combination of nutrients – protein, fat and vitamins – for your baby designed by nature to be easy to digest.  The antibodies in breast milk help babies fend off infections that would otherwise be difficult for their immature immune systems.  Breastfed babies are at lower risk for certain types of cancer, obesity, diabetes, asthma, allergies, ear infections and respiratory problems.  Breastfeeding also supports greater cognitive function and emotional balance from a young age.  But believe it or not, it goes deeper than that.

Breastfeeding improves the health of mothers too, and as well all know, when mama is healthy and strong, a family can thrive.  Breastfeeding is also an economic issue.  In poverty-stricken countries, breastfeeding may be the only stable and sanitary source of nutrition for babies.  In the U.S., breastfeeding itself saves money – no formula, less bottles – but more importantly, when families get sick less, they save in health care costs and parents don’t have to take time off work.  And that makes a huge difference in a family’s finances.

This year, the theme of World Breastfeeding Week is “Breastfeeding: A Winning Goal for Life!”  The goals are to protect, promote and support breastfeeding globally.  Worldwide, poverty rates are decreasing, but still, 1 in 8 people lack daily nutrition.  Child mortality rates have improved in the last two decades but 7 million children under the age of five die, mainly from preventable diseases.  Many of them are preventable when mother’s are educated and given the opportunity to provide their babies the best start in life, with breast milk.

How is the U.S. progressing towards our “winning goal?”  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding for the first 6 months of a baby’s life and continued breastfeeding (along with feeding solids) until babies are at least 1-year-old.  Research indicates that there are many benefits of extended breastfeeding beyond the first year as well.  According to the CDC’s breastfeeding report card for 2013, over 75% of U.S. mothers begin breastfeeding at birth.  However, less than 50% are still breastfeeding when their babies are 6-months old and only 27% are breastfeeding by the time their babies are one.  That means nearly 75% of women in the U.S. are not meeting the recommendation.  Exclusive breastfeeding rates are even lower.  At three months, exclusive breastfeeding is less than 40% and by six months, it sinks to around 16%.

The CDC sites several factors that influence breastfeeding success.  These include: skin-to-skin contact as soon as possible after birth and continued skin-to-skin time throughout the newborn stage; rooming in with babies in the hospital to quickly get into a breastfeeding rhythm; hospitals not making formula a “quick fix” when babies struggle to latch immediately; and support from nurses, lactation consultants, peer counselors and family members.  Statistics show that when breastfeeding is encouraged in the hospital through professional support, skin-to-skin contact and rooming-in, longer term breastfeeding rates increase significantly.

As this report card indicates, there is room for improvement in the U.S. that will make a difference in the health of our families, and allow us to act as a role model for the world.  World Breastfeeding Week is important to women and children, but also our communities 8.1_wbw2014-logo3as a whole.  That’s why this is a week for everyone to celebrate and join hands in promoting breastfeeding by educating new moms about the benefits of breastfeeding, working to remove barriers that many women face in breastfeeding even from healthcare professionals, and encourage a cultural advocacy and social acceptance of the most natural way for mothers to nurture their babies.

Please join us in making a change.  We’re supporting several big initiatives during World Breastfeeding Week and National Breastfeeding Month.  Through a partnership with WIC, we’re donating $15,000 in nursing bras to deserving moms nationwide.  We’re also a Presenting Sponsor in the second annual “We’ve Got Your Back Babe” fitness challenge benefiting the Best for Babes® Foundation, Breastfeeding USA and the United Stations Lactation Consultant Association (USLCA.)  Find out how you can get involved on Facebook.

 

 

Baby Talk and Talking to Your Baby

From the moment they are born, babies are soaking up every sensory experience around them.  While words usually don’t hit their tongues until around one year of age, new research indicates that babies are working on speech as early as seven months.  It’s just all happening in their heads.

Similar to physical movement, speech requires the coordination of brain messages that not only pair sounds with meanings, but also signal mouth movements that will produce words.  Forming sounds takes a lot of work for an infant but it’s made easier by the inner dialogue that’s been taking place for months before the words come out.

Amazingly, researchers discovered that infants as young as six months old can understand words, but by seven months, areas of the brain that correspond to motor planning light up when they hear sounds.  Researchers suspect that this area of the brain is involved in identifying their native language.  When a baby does spit out her exciting first word, it is usually one she has heard most often.  Her brain has been working on forming the sounds for months and finally she has the coordination to verbalize it.

This research highlights the importance of talking to babies, even if they are no where near blurting their first words.  Hearing speech is exercising their cognition, not only to discover the meanings of words, but also how they will eventually say them.  Talking to your baby has many benefits:

Talking to your baby strengthens your bond.  While she may not follow your every word, she will quickly learn your tone and cadence, which is comforting to your little one.  Your words are powerful and are the foundation of a trusting relationship between you and your child.  Plus, talking is fun and can certainly spur a smile if not a complete giggle fest.

If you feel silly talking to your baby, remember that it’s good for her health, just like giving her baths, taking her to the doctor and breastfeeding.  And constant chatter is simpler than you may think.  Try having a conversation with your little one’s baby talk.  Repeat her words, complement them, encourage more and respond as if she’s said something that completely makes sense to you.  This game of speech volley will teach your infant the dynamics of conversation.

Use every opportunity to repeat words and teach new words.  Repetition is easy when you have a routine.  Describe your actions when changing her diaper, snuggling up to breastfeed or driving to grandma’s house.  Take time during bathes or meals to talk about body parts, foods, people in your lives, colors, shapes and more.  Try to incorporate multiple senses as you use words to create a stronger association to meanings.  Nursery rhymes or even rhymes you make up yourself are other repetitive ways to talk to your baby.

baby-mom-reading_courtesy of pregnancyandbaby.comReading to your baby is imperative.  Picture books are ideal to connect sights with the sound of words.  Research shows that low-income children who were not read to regularly in their early years of life are at a great disadvantage as they enter school. Reading not only increases vocabulary that may not be part of your daily routines, but also other communication skills and eventually your child’s own literacy.  Plus reading is another bonding activity and instills a passion for books and lifelong learning.

The new philosophy is: baby talk equals brain talk.  Take every opportunity to boost your baby’s brain by indulging in a little baby talk.

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Why You Should Stick to Pregnancy Workouts from First Trimester to Last

Olympian Alysia Montano competing at 8 months pregnantWhen it comes to your new pregnancy lifestyle, where do pregnancy workouts fit in? It might seem as though pregnancy restrictions limit many of the routine actions that made up your day pre bun in the oven. While you get used to meals without goat cheese and red wine, how should you effectively change your workout plan? Working out while pregnant provides many health benefits to both mom and baby, so using pregnancy as a time to lay off all exercise is not advised by many healthcare professionals. But it also important to note that pregnancy is not the time to push yourself harder and work out past your established threshold. It is crucial that you stay at your current exercise level and concentrate on maintaining that level of fitness (with adjustments as your pregnancy progresses).

Women who regularly compete at a high fitness level will be able to maintain their strenuous workouts with modification throughout pregnancy. Runners, weight lifters, and even surfers are able to maintain their daily workouts as long as they take safety precautions and pay special attention to their breathing and cardio rates. Exercising and carrying a pregnancy impose similar physiological changes on a woman’s body. The cardiovascular and respiratory systems are the most heavily impacted by pregnancy (aside from the body’s transformation during pregnancy) because of how crucial these systems are to a baby’s development in the womb.

If you plan on continuing the work out while pregnant, be prepared for your first trimester to pose the most strain on your heart and breathing. In your first months of pregnancy, your body’s blood flow is more restricted compared to your last months spent expecting. By your third trimester, your body will have maximized cardiac output with minimal effort working out, but your growing baby bump will have put the brakes on more extreme workouts. So if you were a runner before you became pregnant, use your first and second trimesters to continue your typical workout schedule. You should transition into a gentler workout plan in your third trimester to minimize pain and accidents; swimming, yoga, and walking are all safer pregnancy workouts women close to their due dates.

Staying fit is a great way to boost your chances of conception, so make working out a regular habit before you’re pregnant. If you establish a healthy exercise pattern before you start a family, chances are that you’ll be able to keep up with your workout routine while expecting. Not only will you feel better and have an easier delivery, but your baby also benefits from your dedicated exercise regimen. If you’re unsure about what exercise limits you should establish while pregnant, consult your doctor about safe options that keep you active and healthy.

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The Rh Negative Factor during Pregnancy and Fetal Development

The Rh Negative Factor during Pregnancy and Fetal DevelopmentYou might know what blood type you are, but do you know if you’re Rh positive or Rh negative? While this distinction might not seem meaningful to your everyday health, it’s important knowledge to have when trying to get pregnant. Positive and negative blood types are differentiated by the presence of the Rh factor on a red blood cell’s surface; most moms without the Rh protein are considered negative types.  Because a baby’s health and development is watched carefully from the first trimester onward, expecting mothers submit themselves to a variety of tests and screenings to make sure there are no outstanding health issues for mom or baby.

What are the potential pregnancy complications associated with having a Rh negative blood type? The biggest concern stems from how a mom’s Rh negative blood type will react to carrying a fetus with a positive blood type. With genetics in mind, a fetus has about a 50 percent chance of having a negative or positive blood type and does not necessarily mirror the mother’s blood composition. So, if a mother is Rh negative but her fetus is shown to have a positive blood type, then the mother’s blood might form antibodies to attack the fetus’ Rh positive rich blood. Because the fetus is perceived as an infection by the antibodies, the developing baby is at risk for developmental harm or in some cases miscarriage.

To prevent sensitization from occurring during pregnancy (sensitization is the formal term for what happens when a mom’s antibodies try to attack her pregnancy) your doctor will perform a variety of actions to help prevent any damage to the fetus. You’ll undergo a blood test to see how you and your baby match up; if the difference in blood types suggests there might be issues, your doctor can order an antibody screening to monitor how your blood reacts. Sometimes your blood will not produce antibodies regardless if your baby is Rh-positive or not. You also might receive an Rh Immunoglobulin shot (RhIg) which will help protect against sensitization as well. These factors combined, along with careful fetal monitoring, should keep your pregnancy healthy through your last term.

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Join the World Breastfeeding Week Celebration and Fight Hunger!

World Breastfeeding WeekAre you joining the global breastfeeding celebration? We’re talking about World Breastfeeding Week, an annual week-long event that engages women from every nation with breastfeeding news, support, and community building. This year’s event begins August 1st and wraps up August 7th—an entire week dedicated to sharing the joys and health benefits of breastfeeding your little one. This year’s celebration marks 23 years for the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, the founding group and champions of moms and babies across the globe.

In 1992, The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action founded World Breastfeeding Week to bring awareness to deadly infant diseases, fight world hunger, and overall promote breastfeeding worldwide. The World Health Organization and UNICEF joined as partners with the WABA and together they formed the WBW celebration as way to remind mothers, doctors, and family members that breastfeeding an infant yields the best, most cost-effective nutritional diet available. Mothers receive countless health benefits from breastfeeding as well. In 2007, the CDC reported that only 11.3 percent of new mothers exclusively breastfed their child for the first 6 months. In an effort to raise awareness and extend breastfeeding beyond a week or two, the WABA and partners tirelessly champion breastfeeding support so mothers and babies can benefit from the guidance they need for successful nursing.

What can you do to share in the celebration? La Leche League chapters across the nation are hosting Latch On events and WIC offices are opening their doors to new mothers facing breastfeeding troubles. Look at your local chapters and see how you can volunteer or participate. Leading Lady is donating nursing bras to a WIC offices around the country so nursing moms get the support they need for successful, comfortable breastfeeding. With the rise of social media, more moms than ever are showing their support by sharing breastfeeding photos and stories that remind other moms that it’s ok to struggle with nursing and how to alleviate common nursing problems. Join the conversation on our Facebook page and share with moms just like you!

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Make Nesting Include a Breastfeeding Sanctuary in Your Home

Make nesting include a breastfeeding sanctuary in your homeAn expecting mother’s nesting instinct is a predictable part of last-trimester pregnancy. But while setting up your nursery is an important aspect of getting ready for your baby, don’t forget to carve out a specific nursing nest where you’ll breastfeed majority of the time at home. By setting up your own nursing sanctuary, you’ll feel more prepared to breastfeed and bond with your little one when you come home from the hospital. Setting your intention to breastfeed is an important step for a mom-to-be, and making sure you have the right breastfeeding supplies will help you keep your plan intact.

Before you begin setting up your nursing nest, decide whether or not you’ll want privacy or to be a part of the household bustle majority of the time while breastfeeding. This choice is a matter of preference and how you feel about your breastfeeding time with your little one. If you see this as your opportunity to relax and bond just with your infant, choosing a quiet corner in your home might instill the tranquility you’re missing in your life as a new mom. On the other hand, if you have other children or a stay-at-home husband, you might want to set up camp in a common area where you can interact and stay in the mix while nursing. There’s also no rule that says you can’t make your favorite recliner or couch your nursing spot for a while if you feel the need for more interaction, but make your decision before your due date so you feel more prepared to nurse before baby arrives.

The most important supplies you’ll need for your nursing nest are a comfortable chair and plenty of supportive pillows for you and baby. Many new mothers favor gliders for their superior rocking ability and built-in comfort. Keep in mind that you’ll want a seat with great back and neck support so you don’t strain yourself while nursing. Once you’ve picked out your preferred seat, don’t forget to add a footrest for necessary foot support. You absolutely want to be comfortable sitting in your nursing sanctuary, so make your ease a priority while selecting your chair.

If you plan on using an around-the-waist nursing pillow, you might want to steer clear or chairs with narrow armrests. Keep in mind that you’ll want a pillow for your lower back or neck and that your baby will also need pillow support while nursing. There are a variety of well-loved nursing pillows to choose from on the market, so take your time to decide which size and shape will work best for your breastfeeding.

What else do you want to include in your nursing sanctuary? Candles, books or magazines on hand, and maybe a shelf with extra snacks for you to enjoy while breastfeeding. Anything that relaxes you and helps with breastfeeding should be within reach of your nursing nest. By creating your own breastfeeding space, you’ll be able to feel more relaxed about beginning your breastfeeding journey, especially if you’re a first-time mom. Set yourself up for comfort, support, and a space ideal for bonding with your little one during your nursing sessions.

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New Strides in Public Breastfeeding Laws Online and Outside the Home

Model Natalia Vodianova shares a breastfeeding moment on her personal InstagramHave you heard the good news? Breastfeeding moms can now share their nursing session photos without worry of being in violation of Facebook’s picture sharing policy. New moms are rejoicing because it’s another important step for normalizing breastfeeding in the public eye. Facebook’s former policy prohibited posting photos that showed any part of a woman’s nipple (which is hard to avoid in a breastfeeding photo!). After much protestation from various breastfeeding communities, which rely on Facebook to connect with new mothers in need of breastfeeding advice and assistance, Facebook made the executive change to allow mothers to share their special moments freely on the social site.

Facebook’s not the only platform to welcome public breastfeeding—new legislation aimed at workplaces across the country is gaining attention from various groups. Lawmakers are drafting proposals that would require every workplace to provide nursing mothers with a specific lactation room. As it stands now, new mothers who use breast pumps at work are faced with uncertain pumping conditions that depend solely on the employer. Some women already use specific lactation rooms that are equipped with refrigerators, comfy chairs, and sinks for clean up, while other new moms pump in the bathroom or a supply closet. States like New York are eager to pen legislation that would unilaterally help all nursing moms maintain regular breastfeeding even after returning to work.

Breastfeeding is getting the public recognition it deserves thanks to the efforts of advocates, moms, politicians, and celebrities all committed to exposing the various important health benefits breastfeeding provides for a mom and her baby. Whether a celebrity mom shares a pictures of her nursing her little one or a lawmaker presses forward with anti-discrimination public breastfeeding laws, it’s refreshing to see so many members of society champion breastfeeding. Not only does nursing provide your little one with essential, natural nutrients, but it also protects against infection and obesity later in life. Mom’s benefit from breastfeeding as well; studies show that women who breastfeed are less likely to develop breast or ovarian cancer.

How are you planning on promoting breastfeeding in your community? Let us know in the comments. Happy nursing, moms!

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1 in 10 Pregnant Women Now Diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes

1 in 10 Pregnant Women Now Diagnosed with Gestational Diabetes New research published this month delivers important information for pregnant moms or women planning to conceive. A study conducted by the US government estimates that currently 1 out of 10 pregnant US women will develop Gestational Diabetes. This pregnancy complication occurs when an expecting mom’s blood sugar rises into unsafe, high levels and usually disappears after birth, but not without the possibility of short-term and long-term effects on both mom and baby.

Even though the gestational diabetes is not something shared between mom and baby, a child born to a mother with the affliction can develop diabetes later in life as well as other unhealthy side-effects. Mothers with gestational diabetes run the risk of being more likely to undergo a c-section delivery because the condition can cause your baby to grow abnormally large during pregnancy. In addition to being a more difficult birth, babies have been known to break their shoulders exiting the birth canal because of their large size.

Though gestational diabetes is a temporary condition for many pregnant women, the risk of developing another type of diabetes (often permanently) is greater for women who have had gestational diabetes. There’s no exact answer as to how a woman can develop the pregnancy condition in the first place, but researchers are finding a correlation between obesity and gestational diabetes as studies progress. When a mom’s insulin isn’t able to break down sugars properly her body’s blood sugar levels are compromised and exposed to developing this specific strain of diabetes. There’s also evidence that the placenta’s hormones can block insulin from working correctly as well.

To minimize your risk of developing gestational diabetes while expecting, keep an eye on your sugar intake. Staying away from highly processed foods and snacks will make your late night bowl of ice cream easier for your body to process, so make informed diet choices from first trimester to last. Doctors also recommend keeping up with your exercise routine as a way to avoid developing this condition. Stay fit and healthy for your health and your little one’s by practicing good eating habits and splurging on sweets in small doses.

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