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Put as much thought into breastfeeding
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I have to admit something. I didn’t find out the gender of either one of my children until the moment they were born. Shocking, I know. When the ultrasound technician asked if my husband and I wanted to know the gender, we both said no. We kept to our scheduled appointments diligently and performed all the necessary tests but we wanted that little element of surprise. It drove our families and friends crazy! Oh, the hardship of having to buy gender neutral clothes and baby gear.

I also breastfed both of my babies. I can remember stumbling through the house in the dead of night. I was exhausted and couldn’t believe that the baby wanted to nurse… again. I would sit in the rocking chair and struggle to keep from falling asleep. Truth be told, I nodded off more than one time. I was tired all the time but I was also hungry and thirsty all the time too. Ah, the plight of a breastfeeding mother.

Breastfeeding is hard work. If you have done it, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, trust me. Similar to being pregnant, a breastfeeding mom’s body is working overtime to provide the perfect nutrition for that individual baby. There are health benefits for both the infant and the mother. Exclusive breastfeeding provides protection from respiratory infections, diarrheal disease, and other life-threatening ailments.

Sometimes we get caught up on one word… exclusive. Exclusive breastfeeding means babies, especially newborns, receive no formula supplement. That’s particularly important in the first days in the hospital when, with good intentions, formula might be offered.

Now that’s not to say that if you breastfeed for less than a year, there are not benefits. There are! But in the case of breastfeeding, the longer it is done, the better.

The Georgia Department of Public Health promotes, protects, and supports breastfeeding as the preferred method of infant feeding for the first year. The goal of the breastfeeding program is the make breastfeeding the norm in infant feeding practices. Our local health department (770-786-9086) has more information and offers various prenatal and perinatal programs.

You see, breastfeeding, once the only form of nourishment for a newborn, saw a dramatic decrease in popularity over the last few generations. Not only did the medical technology of infant formula take off as a feeding trend, but more moms went back to work after having children. So there are logical and technological reasons for why alternative feeding options are chosen.

The latest information from the CDC shows that 74% of newborn infants in Georgia started to breastfeed. This is slightly lower than the national average. But it is evidence that breastfeeding is “making a comeback” – which is kind of like saying baseball is making a comeback if you ask me.

But you do see more and more breastfeeding mothers out there. And I am not talking about the overzealous ones that making statements in public places. Most breastfeeding moms are doing it because they want to make the best choice for their child. It is also the economical choice for infant feeding — have you priced formula lately?

The bottom line is that it is a choice — it is not an automatic given, one way or another. And like most health-related choices, you need information and support to make the choice that is best for you (and your baby) and to be able to stick with that choice.

Does your workplace have a lactation program? The CDC also reports that there has been a 25 percent increase in Georgia employers who have worksite lactation support programs.

Does your church have a lactation room? There are many churches with nurseries that have a separate room for nursing mothers and a speaker system that pipes in the sermon so nursing mothers can continue to worship.

Does your friend know that you support her nursing her child when you go out for lunch or dinner? Most breastfeeding moms just want to subtly and quietly feed their child. Let’s face, lions might be the only animals that enjoy being gawked at while eating. The rest of us just want to dine in peace. That is true for breastfeeding moms and babies too.

Does your husband support your decision to breastfeed? You might want to tap him on the shoulder while he is building the perfect nursery and have a conversation about your infant feeding plan. There are lots of resources available online and through the Georgia Department of Public Health on how to talk to men about breastfeeding. It is something that is just not on their radar — their focus that you are pregnant!

Breastfeeding success, like most health decisions, is linked community support — that of family, church, workplace, and the general community. If your decision is to breastfeed, you will need that support. If your decision is not to breastfeed, then you will need support for that too. If you interact with breastfeeding mothers, you can offer the support they need through a variety of ways, the least of which is a supportive smile.

World Breastfeeding Week is August 1 through 7. Take a moment to look around and see what your “community” does to support its breastfeeding mothers. And how you can help.

Hosanna Fletcher has lived in Newton County since 2005. With a Masters in Public Health and another in Sociology, she has worked on a variety of community development projects, led training sessions for Lay Health Advisors, conducted and evaluated health risk assessments, and designed and implemented employee wellness programs. Hosanna and her husband Kevin, a Newton County native, have been married for 15 years this October. They have two children — Miranda, 11, and Thomas, 3.