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HEALTH MATTERS: Pumping allows breastfeeding freedom

Sarah Kennedy is shown here with her daughter Brooklyn.
Sarah Kennedy is shown here with her daughter Brooklyn. - Contributed

By Gina Hartmann

Special to The Western Star

When it comes to feeding a newborn, a mother may assume she’s choosing between breastfeeding and formula, but the option of pumping seems to get lost during that decision.

Sarah Kennedy always intended to pump immediately without knowing what type of feeding relationship she would have with her daughter.

“I started pumping at the hospital right away. I came in with a pump to the hospital. Protect that supply, baby can latch after,” advises the new mom. “Get used to the pump and then you have the best of both worlds.”

Kennedy brought a pump with her to ensure she kept her milk coming in, even if her daughter, Brooklyn, never latched- turned out her newborn had difficulty with that initial process.

Even after Brooklyn had a tongue tie repair, she struggled with latching and Kennedy was thankful she had kept her milk coming in with the pump.

“People are so set on one way of breastfeeding. There are different ways to get breast milk. There are so many moms whose babies couldn’t latch and they immediately turn to formula,” said the mom. “I find pumping to some extent easier and people forget that’s an option.”

Kennedy was encouraged by her lactation consultant and public health nurse to continue pumping.

At first she found there were not a lot of information for her to access regarding exclusive pumping.

“The info is limited. I didn’t even know it existed. I didn’t even know what to do or what to do with all the parts,” she said of all the rules and tools that come with pumping.

Kennedy found a Facebook group titled Exclusive Pumping which has been supportive and educational.

Though the information may seem overwhelming at first, she reminds moms who are starting the process to remember the three sixes: 6 hours in room temperature, 6 days in the fridge and 6 in a freezer.

“For all new moms the hardest part is the first month or two. I would be up at 2 in the morning saying ‘I can’t do this forever,” recalled Kennedy of her experience. “Then it became easier.”

Kennedy advises pumping moms to set a schedule consider if they want to save milk for the future. She is currently pumping extra as a supply for when she returns to work after eight months on leave.

If a new mom considers exclusive pumping, Kennedy encourages them to embrace it.

“With pumping you can make it your own. It’s a nice break for you after awhile. I sit and watch a show,” she said. “I volunteer once a week. I am able to get out, step away and have a bit of freedom.”

April Dakins
April Dakins

Establishing a foundation for life

By April Dakins

World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated in Canada the first week of October. Every year, countries around the world observe World Breastfeeding Week for a good reason: breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to provide children everywhere with the best start to life.

For optimal health babies should start breastfeeding within one hour of birth, receive nothing but breastmilk for the first six months of life, and continue to breastfeed to 2 years of age or longer with the addition of nutritious and safe foods at six months.

Giving babies nothing but breastmilk for the first six months of life helps young children grow, prevents undernutrition, promotes brain development, and reduces their risk of becoming overweight. Breastfeeding is also a newborn’s first vaccine, protecting against many illnesses. Breastfeeding protects mothers as well. It helps with birth control, risk of breast and ovarian cancers, and lowers the risk of hypertension.

During emergencies, when communities are faced with limited access to clean water and basic health services, breastfeeding guarantees a safe, healthy and available food source for infants and young children, while protecting them from disease.

Despite these clear benefits, many children are missing out. More and more mothers are starting to breastfeed in Western Newfoundland however, in 2017 only 68% of mothers started breastfeeding. While we don’t know the exact numbers, considerably fewer babies are given only breastmilk until six months of age and even less continue breastfeeding up to the recommended 2 years of age.

There are many reasons why women may be unable to start and continue breastfeeding successfully. Although complex breastfeeding challenges require health care provider involvement, there are ways community members can contribute to improving breastfeeding rates and experiences. Just being positive and understanding the importance of breastfeeding can make a difference to new parents. Being aware that a mother and baby have a right to breastfeed anywhere a baby is permitted at any time and making a mother feel comfortable while feeding her baby by offering a smile can put new parents at ease. It is important to note, the more people see breastfeeding, the more normal and accepted it becomes.

Expectant parents can learn the importance of breastfeeding and discuss any concerns about infant feeding with their family practitioner or public health nurse, preferably before a baby’s birth. After a baby’s birth there are many people who can help with infant feeding concerns including Public Health Nurses, Family Physicians, and Nurse Practitioners. Informal support is also very important in caring for babies and children. Where available, breastfeeding support groups, Family Resource Centres, Public Library groups for families, and other community groups provide remarkable supports for new parents and families.

Breastfeeding is indeed the foundation for life and gives growing children a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to grow and develop to their full potential.

April Dakins is a regional lactation consultant with Western Health.

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