August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month, and while nursing benefits both mamas and babes, it may not always be easy. Some moms have a more challenging journey with a baby who won’t latch on or take her milk, while others find the stress of a nursing schedule getting in the way of their bonding experience. But this month is all about assuring new and seasoned mamas you’re not alone—there is support from classes to resources and products. We sat down with Sarah Rieber, DNP APN-C IBCLC Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner and Lactation Consultant at RWJBarnabas Health, to learn more about breastfeeding, tips on what do if you’re experiencing any roadblocks, and ways to support mama and baby during this time. (featured photo credit: )
What are the benefits of breastfeeding? And what changes and new recommendations have been made about breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding has four main benefits for the mother—it helps lower high blood pressure, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, and ovarian cancer. For the baby, it lowers the risk of asthma, obesity, diabetes, respiratory distress, ear infections, SIDS, gastrointestinal infection, and necrotizing enterocolitis. While breastfeeding has always been recommended, it’s been especially advocated during COVID due to its immuno-protective piece. But the most significant change is that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidance was updated recently, recommending continued breastfeeding for up to one year or longer. Preliminary data revealed that human milk in the second year of life continues to be a significant source of macronutrients and immunologic factors for growing toddlers.
If a mom has problems with breastfeeding, donor milk can help, but you should go through a milk bank—RWJBarnabas Health partners with Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast, which is used for super-preemies and NICU babies. There are 28 milk banks in the country, and the milk is tested, screened, and temperature ensured. To obtain the milk, you need a pediatrician’s prescription.
Are there any common roadblocks new moms, or even seasoned moms, face when breastfeeding? And what are the signs you need help?
Many new and seasoned moms lack support and understanding of how to get help. Even with support, there can be questions like: Am I doing this right? Why does my baby eat all the time? How do I get my baby back to the bottle? Is the baby getting enough? Especially for new moms, it can feel like a lack of confidence and experience. Trust your instincts; if you are overwhelmed or uncertain, it’s better to ask questions and reach out—there are so many resources. I can say as long as the baby is peeing, pooping, and gaining weight, you are enough.
What are some tips to help relieve breastfeeding stress for new and seasoned mothers?
It always feels less stressful when there are people you can talk to, laugh with, and generally listen to for advice. It’s helpful to find a community of other moms, friends, and relatives; if you can’t find it in your immediate area, RWJBarnabas Health can help. We offer weekly breastfeeding support through virtual groups with 12-20 moms per class for an hour. These virtual groups let you check in with an expert and other moms going through the same thing. You can ask questions about pumping, milk production, and even which products to use, creating a sense of community. We also offer a Facebook Group for breastfeeding called RWJBH Breastfeeding Support Group, and it’s a private group you can join where you ask questions and learn from others.
Are there new products available now that help with breastfeeding?
Though not new, I don’t think many new moms know about the Haakaa.
It works with natural suction, drawing milk with a silicone suction compress and flip lid. Many say it’s better than the $300 breast pump and portable electric pumps. When used correctly, it works like a pump without batteries or cords. You can also move with it instead of being connected and plugged into the wall. It’s a way to live life with functionality, and it’s good for mom’s mental health because it doesn’t feel like you are on the feed and pump hamster wheel, which is a stressful place to be.
breast massager is another popular item. It’s an electric massager which increases milk production through heat and vibrations, and it’s about the size of small remote control. The Silverette Cups
are also helpful to mothers for protecting and healing nipples. They are made of silver (anti-inflammatory) and work when you put them in your bra, soothing sore nipples.
What resources are available to someone looking for breastfeeding support, and how does joining a group or seeing a specialist help, especially if you’re concerned about COVID?
Before you give birth, you can attend a Child Birth Education class, where they will offer breastfeeding information. At the hospital, ask for a lactation consultant to help you with latching and breastfeeding basics. Once you are home with the baby, you can try ZipMilk
, where you type in your zip code, giving you quick access to a local lactation consultant. You can also call them to ask breastfeeding questions. When you get a moment, log on to find RWJBarnabas support groups
that work with your schedule. They are virtual, but we recently brought back small in-person groups if you want. And I always recommend LACTIVATE!: A Users Guide to Breastfeeding
—it’s the most amazing user-friendly book to help moms through their breastfeeding journeys.