Data shows mothers are not breast feeding long enough, more education and support needed

A baby looks up at his mother while nursing. (WISH photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A recent study shows too many moms are stopping breast feeding too soon and a task force of experts say doctors need to be the ones to change it.

Breast feeding has long been recommended by doctors. The health benefits are staggering. Not just fewer ear infections, colds, and hospital visits with breast-fed babies, but it also reduces the chances of SIDS by up to 50-percent and even reduces the chance of leukemia in older children. Still many mothers who start off breast feeding are quitting too soon.

“Does anyone need one-on-one help today?,” asks a lactation consultant at Hendricks Regional Health in Danville.

Each Wednesday, breast feeding experts open the door to breast feeding moms who need help.

“We’re doing a pretty good job of convincing moms, yes, you should breast-feed, but we’re not doing a really good job of making sure that they have the support that they need,” registered nurse and lactation consultant Debbie Beck said.

She is also the chairwoman of the Hendricks County Breast feeding Coalition.

There are about a dozen women who attend the support group at HRH. Francisca Becker is like most new moms, who initiate breast feeding. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 80-percent of mothers give it a try, but only half are still nursing after six months and under a third make it to a year. A task force put together by the Department of Health and Human Services said more support like the support group at HRH is needed, along with education.

“We need to talk about breast feeding and the benefits from day 1 with them,” Dr. Emily Scott, IU Methodist newborn unit medical director, said. “It’s not so much a lifestyle decision or what moms thing is going to work better for their lifestyle, but it’s really more about a health decision for their family.

Dr. Scott, who is also the breast feeding coordinator for the Indiana American Academy of Pediatrics, said informing mothers during pregnancy is key. That education, must then be followed by constant encouragement by OB-GYN’s, pediatricians, and lactation consultants.

“Belly-to-belly, big hug, nose to nipple and wait for the baby to lift the chin up and wait for the baby to latch,” said a lactation consultant working closely with Becker.

For her, a little re-positioning helped get her through this bump in the road, but experts said breast feeding is not a one-size-fits-all journey.

“It requires learning and every baby is different. That’s why we’re all here to help moms reach their goals,” Dr. Scott said.

Hendricks Regional Health is one of many hospitals in central Indiana offering breast feeding support groups. Also, many hospitals offer breast feeding classes during pregnancy and lactation consultants to help just after a baby’s birth and as much as needed after birth.