Saturday, March 21, 2009

Birth Center Helps Families Gracefully Clear Hurdles to Breastfeeding

The Atlantic Monthly recently published “The Case Against Breastfeeding” which The Today Show covered. While incorrect (see below), the article’s assertions that scientific evidence barely supports breastfeeding is important because it reveals the often disheartening challenges many women and families in our society face when trying to breastfeed. Given the article’s tone and the ensuing coverage and online discussion, the need for compassionate and sensitive discourse could not be greater or more obvious. It is also important to take stock of our local options and, once again, we have much to be grateful for in the unique services found at the PeaceHealth Nurse Midwifery Birth Center.

Disheartening Hurdles to Breastfeeding
Whatever one’s feelings about breastfeeding, most people can agree on one thing: breastfeeding in the United States is a challenge for most women. Here are a few of the institutional and cultural hurdles women and families must clear to establish breastfeeding:

  • The US, alone among industrial nations, provides no paid maternity leave.
  • Most expecting women, who themselves were unlikely to have been breastfed, are encouraged to breastfeed but given no pre-baby lactation education. The majority are unaware that “most hospitals perform poorly on breastfeeding support.”
  • Before their milk fully comes in, mothers and babies leave the hospital with no routine follow-up breastfeeding support.
  • Unnecessary breastfeeding complications often ensue requiring the aid of a lactation consultant, a service generally not covered by health insurance.
  • Neither the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists nor the American Academy of Pediatrics requires doctors to be trained in basic breastfeeding support including referring patients to lactation consultants or support groups.

For a more thorough explication of these challenges and the misplaced resentment they understandably spark, read "Case Against Breastfeeding" Overlooks Big Dirty Secret."

Birth Center Helps Families Gracefully Clear Hurdles to Breastfeeding
The PeaceHealth Nurse Midwifery Birth Center is among the 3% of 3,000 maternity centers in the US to earn the "Baby-Friendly" designation, the gold-standard protocol proven to result in breastfeeding success. After mom, dad and baby go home from the Birth Center, they receive an in-home visit where questions and concerns about breastfeeding, infant care and post-partum recovery are addressed. Families are then encouraged to use the free, weekly drop-in Baby Clinic to see lactation consultants, weigh their baby and connect with other parents. Not only does breastfeeding get off to a good start but life-long friendships are also nurtured right along with babies!

The extraordinary value of Birth Center’s “Baby Friendly” designation shines brightly in the Birth Center Tribute video as well as in the 28 heart-felt testimonials offered by Birth Center moms, dads, grandparents and supporters. These letters were written recently to convey to PeaceHealth the importance of ensuring the Birth Center’s future by relocating it adjacent to the new hospital at RiverBend.

Evidence for Breastfeeding is Scientific
The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine issued a press release detailing the evidence basis for breastfeeding.

President of the American Academy of Pediatrics also submitted the following letter via email to the editor of The Atlantic Monthly.

In the article, "The Case Against Breast-Feeding" by Hanna Rosin, the author skims the literature and has omitted many recent statements including the 2005 statement of the American Academy of Pediatrics which supports the value of breastfeeding for most infants. This policy references every statement with scientific evidence from over 200 articles which meet scientific standards for accuracy and rigor. The statement was meticulously reviewed by the Section on Breastfeeding, the Committee on Nutrition and numerous other committees and approved by the Board of Directors of the Academy. Breastfeeding and Maternal and Infant Health Outcomes in Developed Countries, a study released by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (the AHRQ Report) strongly supports the evidence of benefits demonstrated in the breastfeeding research. The evidence for the value of breastfeeding is scientific, it is strong, and it is continually being reaffirmed by new research work.

The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages women to make an informed decision about feeding their infants based on scientifically established information from credible resources.

David T. Tayloe, Jr., MD, FAAP
American Academy of Pediatrics

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