Breastfeeding awareness promotes normalcy, improves health, lactation experts say

Hadas Kuznits
August 01, 2019 - 7:39 pm

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — As we enter World Breastfeeding Awareness Week — and Breastfeeding Awareness Month for all of August — advocates are encouraging and spreading information about breastfeeding.

Dr. Diane Spatz, nurse researcher and director of CHOP's lactation program, said encouraging women to breastfeed in public normalizes it and dramatically improves breastfeeding rates.

"If you grew up in a community where you never saw a mom breastfeed, what would make you wake up one day and think, 'Oh, should I do that?' " she asked.

Spatz said learning about breastfeeding prior to birth is key.

"There's a critical window of opportunity after the mother gives birth for her to actually effectively establish a milk supply," she said. "So if the breasts are not effectively stimulated and emptied in that first three to five days, she's not gonna have milk."

In the U.S., she said more than 80 percent of women start to breastfeed their babies, but there's a high falloff rate. After six months, only 25 percent of women are exclusively breastfeeding, "which is considered to be the gold standard in terms of infant health and nutrition."

Certified lactation counselor Diane Lawley also said that six-month mark is critical, because that's the point when babies aren't as dependent on breast milk and start eating food.

"If you want to breastfeed exclusively for six months, what would be optimal would be to have six months maternity leave," she said.

While Pennsylvania laws promote lactation rooms in the workplace, returning to work at 12 weeks or less postpartum makes breastfeeding difficult, Lawley noted, especially since most babies are completely dependent on breast milk up to 6 months of age.

"Milk supply's gonna take a hit when there's anxiety and distance from the baby," she explained.

For the full conversation on breastfeeding awareness, listen to an extended interview by Hadas Kuznits below.