SOURCE: Columbia University School of Nursing, news release, Sept. 3, 2014
THURSDAY, Sept. 4, 2014 (HealthDay News) Breast-feeding offers many benefits for new moms and babies, but some women experience problems and don't know where to get help, an expert says.
Breast-feeding can lower a child's risk of asthma, diabetes and other health problems, and reduce a mother's risk of breast cancer, said Laura Zeidenstein, director of the nurse midwifery program at Columbia University School of Nursing in New York City.
While breast-feeding can be challenging in the beginning -- especially for a first-time mother -- those initial problems are easily overcome with proper encouragement and support, Zeidenstein said.
Expectant mothers should tell labor and delivery nurses that they want to breast-feed as soon as possible after delivery, and ask that their baby not be given any bottle feedings. If women want to feed on demand, they need to request that their baby remain in their hospital room, Zeidenstein said.
If there are some initial problems, new mothers shouldn't give up, she said.
"For the first hour after birth and the first six weeks after delivery, it's important for women to have the right encouragement and hands-on assistance on a regular basis," Zeidenstein said.
"When you ask women what made them stop breast-feeding, they will usually blame themselves and say they didn't make enough milk or that the baby didn't want it. But what really happened is they didn't get enough support," she said.
Women also need to know that U.S. health insurance companies are required to cover breast-feeding services, including breast pumps and visits with a lactation consultant, Zeidenstein said. The law also requires businesses with at least 50 employees to give nursing mothers breaks to pump milk, and to provide them with a place to do this (other than a bathroom) for a year after birth.
"New moms, especially if they have to go back to work in three months, still need support to learn how to pump in the right way and how to keep up breast-feeding when they're away from the baby so many hours each day," Zeidenstein said.
Support groups are also important for new mothers who want to breast-feed.
"A support group gives women a mentor to guide them and reassure them that their experience is valuable, and also gives peer support," Zeidenstein said. "These groups are about helping new moms to trust their ability and learn that with just minor corrections and encouragement they can succeed."
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about breast-feeding.