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Baby-Friendly Means Breastfeeding-Friendly PDF Print E-mail
Written by Laura Maxson   

Over the years we have learned that breastfeeding provides much more than just food. A mother who is breastfeeding is in a completely different hormonal and metabolic state than a mother who is not. This normal state makes her healthier. In fact, lack of on-going lactation increases her risk for diabetes, breast and other cancers, depression, weight gain and more.

Babies are even more sensitive to the loss of breastfeeding. Lili Beggs, RN and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) at Sutter’s Lactation Center says, “We have this idea that all we need is nine months in utero and we have completed another human being.” But the truth is that lactation - the milk and the very act of breastfeeding – is needed to really finish a baby’s development.

Breastfeeding has an impact on a baby’s growth right down to how their genes are expressed. Breastfeeding alters development from the intestines and immune system, to the brain and weight-gain, giving a breastfed baby a clear advantage. Non-breastfeeding babies have many more illnesses – from mild, such as colds and ear infections, to the more serious, including SIDS and diabetes. Breastfeeding makes a huge difference, beginning with babies, but continuing for a lifetime.

We lost breastfeeding as a culture in 1950s, a time of exploding scientific and pharmaceutical discoveries that successfully treated many previously serious illnesses. Because of the general increase in our societies health at the time, we didn’t seem to notice the increasing number of ailments we were treating. We threw drugs at symptoms instead of recognizing the real dangers to our overall health caused by not breastfeeding – until now!

“As a society we’ve gotten all off track when it comes to breastfeeding.” says Beggs, “Hospitals and the medical model drove breastfeeding out and it makes sense that these same entities fix it.” Part of that fix and one that Beggs is deeply involved with, helping her hospital become “Baby-Friendly” through the baby friendly hospital initiative. A Baby-Friendly designated hospital provides support for families who have chosen to breastfeed their babies by incorporating policies and procedures that lead to improved health outcomes.

Formal Baby-Friendly designation takes an amazing amount of planning and work to implement, and means system-wide changes for hospitals, their staff and the care providers who work there. Sutter is on track to receive “Baby-Friendly” designation in early 2011. Dominican Hospital has also begun the process, having filed their letter of intent with Baby-Friendly International.

A Baby-Friendly designated hospital offers an optimal level of care for infant feeding in giving mothers the information, confidence, and skills needed to successfully initiate and continue breastfeeding. All parents and babies will benefit from spending undisturbed skin-to-skin time together for at least the first hour after birth. In this Golden Hour, babies either stay in arms or if they need help at birth, get back in arms as soon as possible. Babies kept skin-to-skin in mothers’ arms seem to do better then those who are placed alone in baby beds. Hospitals going for Baby-Friendly learn to observe babies in mother’s arms instead of routinely sending them to the nursery.

Becoming Baby-Friendly is about giving families every opportunity to be successful in breastfeeding. Babies instinctively looking for the breast at birth, rooting and squirming with open mouth, searching for their milk, and mother’s hormones automatically switch at birth from pregnancy to lactation and have effortlessly begun the milk making process. Nature and our bodies have already made the decision about breastfeeding, we just need to act upon it!

Baby-Friendly does not make women breastfeed. The hospital and staff always respects and supports a parent’s decision about how they want to feed their baby. But because deciding about breastfeeding has many life long impacts for their and their child’s health, parents deserve complete information. Many women are making decisions based on incomplete or just wrong information. Baby-Friendly ensures that everyone at the hospital is on the same page with accurate information to education and support parents in their decisions. Every feeding of breastmilk is important. And even when a woman is planning to use formula, offering her baby the breast, even for just for a few days, provides many benefits.

Laura Maxson, LM, CPM, the mother of three grown children, has been working with pregnant and breastfeeding women for over 20 years. Currently she is the executive director of Birth Network of Santa Cruz County and has a homebirth midwifery practice. Contact her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Side Bar

August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month.

• Celebrate by letting Sutter and Dominican know that you appreciate their work toward Baby-Friendly.

• Friday Aug 20th Santa Cruz County’s Annual Walk for Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding families join with breastfeeding advocates including members of WIC, La Leche League, Nursing Mothers Counsel, Birth Network, and the hospital support groups. Invite your mother’s group! Last year’s walk was lead by Watsonville hospital ‘s teen mother’s program. Walk begins at 12 noon, leaving from the WIC office at La Manzana Center, 18 West Lake Avenue, Watsonville, to the park then back for food and celebration. Babies and children welcome! (Decorated tricycles, bikes and strollers are a plus!) Every year the crowd gets bigger – be part of it!


Baby-Friendly Means Breastfeeding-Friendly
By Laura Maxson LM

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