The Online Newsletter for Children's Nurses
e-Edition, Volume 1, Issue 3
Breastfeeding: Improving the Health of Baby and Mom
Shauna Timothee, BSN, RN
To breastfeed or not is an important health choice for all mothers. Any amount of breastfeeding is beneficial for both the infant and the mother. Breast milk contains antibodies that help to protect the infant from illness. For the infant, breastfeeding is linked to a lower incidence of ear infections, stomach viruses, respiratory infections, asthma, obesity, diabetes, childhood leukemia, SIDS, and necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). For moms, there is a decrease risk for type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, ovarian cancer and postpartum depression (1).
Infant formulas are unable to duplicate the chemical makeup of human breast milk. The thick yellow first breast milk is called colostrum. It is rich in nutrients and antibodies that help to protect the infant as he or she begins life in the world. It works to get the newborns immune system going and then changes over time; meeting the infants evolving needs. Breast milk is easier than formula for the infant to digest and can save breastfeeding families thousands of dollars dollar’s per year in formula costs.
The emotional benefits of breastfeeding include bonding for the infant and mom. The physical contact can help the infant to feel secure and comforted. It promotes increased feelings of self-confidence in the mother and an overall feeling of closeness with the infant.
Breastfeeding can also be beneficial to society as a whole. Medical costs for fully breastfed infants are lower than that of never-breastfed infants because there is typically less need for sick care. Breastfeeding mothers are absent less from work because their infants are sick less frequently. This decreases medical costs for employers and increases employee productivity. The environment benefits from the decrease in trash produced by formula cans and bottle supplies (1).
A primary goal of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is to improve the health of mothers and their children. A key part of achieving this goal is encouraging breastfeeding (2). The U.S. Surgeon General recommends that infants be fed breast milk exclusively for the first six months of life. At six months the infants’ stomach is ready to begin digesting supplemental foods. However, the infants’ immune system will not be mature until around two years of age. Therefore, breast milk can continue to be a healthy part of the infants’ diet into the second year of life (3). In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) sponsor the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) which is a global program to encourage and recognize hospitals that provide an optimal level of care for lactation. This initiative is based on the WHO/UNICEF’s “Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding for Hospitals”. The Ten Steps were initially written for delivery hospitals. As a children’s hospital, we are able to be flexible in adapting the Ten Steps to suit the needs of our pediatric population. Key concepts based on these steps include:
- Establishing a breastfeeding policy. Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy. (A breastfeeding CHEX module is available for all Children’s Hospital employees.)
- Show mothers how to breastfeed, and how to maintain lactation even if they are separated from their infants.
- Give newborn infants only breast milk, unless otherwise medically indicated.
- Practice rooming-in. Allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
- Encourage breastfeeding on demand.
- Give no artificial teats or pacifiers to breastfeeding infants.
- Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital of clinic (4).
Resources available to staff at Children’s Hospital include Policy 2.4061 Breastfeeding, which provides helpful information regarding indications and contraindications for breastfeeding, the procedure to assist mothers in breastfeeding, reportable conditions and education. Policy 2.3033 Breast Management is available to assist with pumping and storage questions and Policy 4.8341.005 describes the policy and procedure for obtaining a breastfeeding consultation for your patient. In addition, Susan Herrera, RN, IBCLC, is our lactation consultant and can be contacted to assist with breastfeeding.
The benefits of breastfeeding for infants and mothers are many. Breastfeeding is supported by the CDC, U.S. Surgeon General, the WHO, and UNICEF as a way to improve the health of mothers and children. The WHO and UNICEF have developed recommendations for hospitals to utilize in order to provide moms with high level of care for lactation, thus, promoting overall health and well-being for moms and their infants.
In This Issue
Seasons of Change
Change and Transition
Career Path to Success
Decreasing Medication Errors Through Reporting of Unusual Occurrences
Breastfeeding: Improving the Health of Baby and Mom
Addressing Parent’s Fear of the MMR Vaccine
NICU Nursing in Nepal