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Breastfeeding provides 'perfect food' for babies

Breastfeeding provides 'perfect food' for babies

Having a baby means new parents have a long list of questions and worries: Do we have the best car seat? Is the nursery stocked with the right supplies? Is our home safe enough?

Feeding a newborn is one area that shouldn’t cause worry. “Without a doubt, breastfeeding is the healthiest choice for moms and babies,” said Katie Kufahl, registered nurse and Birth Center manager at Community HealthCare System in Onaga.

August is National Breastfeeding Month, and Kufahl is eager to help new parents understand the benefits of breastfeeding. Breastmilk provides hormones and antibodies that help protect babies from illness, including ear infections, urinary tract infections, and digestive problems. As adults, people who were breastfed have less asthma, diabetes, and Crohn’s disease as well as fewer skin problems and allergies.

Breastfeeding also benefits moms.

“I’m not sure people realize that not only is breastfeeding healthy for baby, but it is also healthy for mom. Breastfeeding decreases ovarian cancer, breast cancer, and type II diabetes risk in women,” Kufahl said.

That doesn’t mean that breastfeeding is always easy. Many new moms and babies struggle at first. According to Kufahl, the most common problem is that moms give up soon after heading home from the hospital because they think they aren’t giving babies what they need.  But a newborn baby’s stomach is the size of a marble and can hold only 5 milliliters, or about a teaspoon, per feeding. After babies are 10 days old, they can take an ounce and a half per feeding.

“Your body is going to make what the baby needs,” Kufahl said.

Another common challenge is that some babies have trouble latching on properly. Kufahl said they “usually figure it out,” and that feedings usually go much more smoothly after the first two weeks.

Obtaining lactation support in the hospital and during the first few days at home with a new baby can help ensure success. Community HealthCare System in Onaga is a High 5 for Mom & Baby hospital, which means it offers skin-to-skin contact right after birth, feeds only breastmilk unless medically necessary, allows mothers and babies to stay together 24 hours a day, offers no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants, and offers extensive breastfeeding resources.

After supporting new moms in the hospital, Kufahl gives them her cell phone number and tells them to come back to see her if they experience problems. Finding that moral support is important, especially to first-time parents. Friends and relatives can also provide education, but Kufahl said moms should do their own research, too.

“Feeding your baby starts before your baby is born. The more education people can receive to learn more about what’s good for baby, the better,” Kufahl said.

Dr. Nancy Zidek sees the good effects of breastfeeding and of Kufahl’s lactation support.

“I encourage moms to breastfeed. Breast milk is the perfect food for babies. Our nurses can help new moms on the road to successful breastfeeding,” Zidek said.

CHCS offers other resources for moms who are breastfeeding and need to return to work. April Wesley, respiratory therapist and Community Home Care Equipment coordinator, can help new moms find the best breast pump for the best price.

“We carry Medela breast pumps, which are the number one recommended brand, and we can help moms learn to use them and work with insurance companies on reimbursement,” Wesley said. Wesley’s unit also offers new pump parts and kits, cleaning bags for pump kits, flow-regulated bottles, and nursing pads.

Kufahl said she wants new parents to know that their time and effort is worthwhile.

“Breastfeeding is a commitment. Anything that’s good in your life, you usually have to work at it a little bit. Breastfeeding is like that,” she said.


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