Alan Reed | The Sun
Mothers like Valarie Douglas (left) have a resource in county health departments to discuss breastfeeding techniques and advantages. Johnna Black (right), regional breastfeeding coordinator for west Kentucky, shares some tips with her. Two of Douglas' sons, Jack (left), and Spencer, and her third son were breastfed. Douglas said breastfeeding boosted their immunities and her oldest son never had an ear infection until 21⁄2 years old.
West Kentucky health departments want mothers to know the benefits of breastfeeding infants.
Johnna Black, regional breastfeeding promotion coordinator, said breast milk contains all nutrients needed for infants. Mothers even produce an altered form of milk naturally to nourish children born prematurely, Black added.
“Usually breast milk is the best nutritional fit for a baby. I’ve never heard a case where it’s not,” Black said.
Black said the only women who should not breastfeed infants are those diagnosed with HIV, those on anti-retroviral medications, have untreated and active tuberculosis, have T-cell lymphotropic viruses, are using or are dependent on illicit drugs, undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapies.
To overcome problems with breastfeeding, Black said breastfeeding programs offer education. She teaches women how to hold nursing children comfortably and proper latching to ensure feedings are not painful. Black also advises women breastfeeding is quicker than serving formula. Women can avoid the process of mixing and warming formula before placing it in a bottle.
Through programs such as WIC, breastfeeding mothers have access to breast pumps and additional food for themselves and their children once they reach age six months. Health departments also provide information about support groups allowing mothers to share experiences and tips with each other.
Amy Ferguson, nutritional services supervisor at the Calloway County Health Department, said women require an extra 300 to 500 calories a day and need a balanced diet with extra hydration from water or skim milk. Women should speak to a health care provider if breastfeeding while on prescription medications.
Mothers eating gas-producing foods such as onions or cabbage can also pass gas-forming enzymes in their milk which could cause stomach discomfort in infants. Some infants also have a sensitivity to breast milk after mothers consume dairy or wheat products. Ferguson encouraged any mothers noticing discomfort in a child after it breastfeeds to contact their doctor, local health department or a lactation consultant.
Ferguson added caffeine and alcohol can be passed from mother to child and should be avoided.
“Smoking is also not the best. If a mother smokes, she might want to wait a couple of hours before nursing a child again. But even if a mother smokes, the benefits outweigh risks,” Ferguson said.
Black said with known nutritional benefits for infants, mothers also enjoy health benefits by breastfeeding. By breastfeeding, a woman lowers her risks of post-menopausal breast cancer, ovarian cancer and Type 2 diabetes. Breastfeeding also improves an infant’s immunities meaning fewer doctor visits and lower health care costs.
“The biggest advantage of breastfeeding I saw was my children never got sick,” Valarie Douglas of Murray said. “My oldest was 21⁄2 years old before he got his first ear infection.”
Douglas said she is a mother of three sons, and expects a fourth child in January. All children have been breastfed.
“It’s wonderful for myself and great for babies. Their health improves, and it good for my body. I lose baby weight faster and have a lower risk of some types of cancer,” Douglas said.