By Kyle LoJacono
Breastfeeding infants may be healthy for both mother and child, but many new moms find mastering the technique somewhat daunting.
Pasco County Health Officer Dr. David Johnson said breastfeeding is very natural, but is a learned behavior and not something that comes instinctively to mothers.
“Support is a major component of successful breastfeeding and helping mothers to overcome obstacles creates a strong foundation for a baby’s health,” Johnson said. “Current research shows that when mothers receive help and support from those surrounding them, including their family, employer and healthcare providers it ultimately leads to a more successful breastfeeding experience.”
August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month and the state health department is offering support to help mothers, especially new ones, through its county chapters. It has created a program called Women, Infants and Children (WIC) to offer additional support for breastfeeding.
One mother in Pasco who has received help from WIC is Miriam Gatian, who has a 4-month-old daughter named Alyssa. Her consultant, Teresa Del Negro, helped remove any doubts in her mind about the benefits of breastfeeding while teaching proper techniques.
“I am so thankful for the (WIC) breastfeeding peer counseling program,” Gatian said. “I have gone through some pretty rough times in the beginning with breastfeeding where I was doubting myself and really needed to talk to someone about breastfeeding. Being able to talk to Teresa Del Negro really gave me the boost I needed to have the confidence in my ability in being a good mom to my baby.”
Breastfeeding moms who participate in WIC receive face-to-face meetings with a trained lactation specialist, peer counseling and breastfeeding support groups.
In Hillsborough, the county health department has partnered with St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital to raise awareness about breastfeeding.
“We will have educational materials available, including the Hillsborough County Task Force’s Resource Guide for new moms and families who might be interested in breastfeeding support,” said Walter Niles, manager of the Hillsborough County Health Department’s Office of Health Equity.
St. Joseph’s lactation specialist Jessica Gordon adds, “Breastfeeding can be one of the most enjoyable experiences for a new mother, and the health benefits are significant in both mother and baby.”
Gordon said most of the benefits happen if a child is breastfed exclusively for the first six months of life.
–Breastfeeding encourages the best brain growth and development in babies and helps babies reach their full intellectual potential.
–Breastfed babies are one-third less likely to die of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.
–Breastfed babies have fewer illnesses, are less likely to be hospitalized in the first year of life and have milder effects when illness does happen.
–Breastfed babies are less likely to develop respiratory infections, ear infections, childhood diabetes and certain types of cancers.
–Breastfed babies are less likely to grow into overweight children.
–Breastfeeding helps to reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer for women.
–Breastfeeding provides a bonding connection for mother and baby.
–Breastfeeding releases the hormone prolactin, which decreases anxiety and helps people feel calmer.
–Breastfeeding an infant during a natural disaster reduces the potential risk for feeding contamination from toxic materials.
Women interested in more information on local WIC programs should call (877) 942-2329 or visit www.FloridaWIC.org.
To learn more about Hillsborough’s program, call (813) 307-8000 or visit www.hillscountyhealth.org. For more information on St. Joseph’s Women’s Hospital’s services for breastfeeding mothers, call (813) 879-4730.