By Lisha Streitmatter, CLC, Breastfeeding Peer Counselor, Peoria City/County Health Department
As a mother of five and having four very different breastfeeding journeys with them, I know first-hand that being a new parent can present some struggles. Breastfeeding for your baby is not always an easy task. For many it can be a challenge. Thankfully we have many resources to help guide us through our breastfeeding journeys. Many moms may not know where to reach out or how to get help when a struggle may arise. For me with my first baby when I had her 14 years ago, I had no idea where to turn for help. My baby would not latch so I chose to pump for her. The pump I had was not the best, but I made do. I struggled with a lot of pain and ups and downs with milk supply and then went on to having an oversupply which is also not always a good thing. It wasn’t until I had my second baby that I found help through our local WIC (Women Infant and Children) Program. I initially turned to WIC for support with getting formula. They asked me if I was breastfeeding, and I said yes. They connected me to their WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor. I met with her and was in awe over all the tips for breastfeeding she gave me. I also received a new breast pump which my insurance covered for me. I had no idea all the resources I could have been utilizing when I had my first baby. It was then that I realized what an amazing job the breastfeeding peer counselor role was and that I too would love to help other moms with their breastfeeding journeys. I went on to share my experiences at WIC and referred a lot of family and friends to them. In 2016 I became our local WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor.
As a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor, I help support and educate all families on providing human milk to their infants and children. Supporting families is very rewarding and a large part of everyone’s breastfeeding journey. The first tip for helping friends and family with their journey is to just listen. Listening to their concerns and fears can play a huge role in them continuing to provide human milk to their infant or child—ensuring them they are not alone in this journey. Some other ways to help are locating lactation counselors in the community and encouraging moms to go for a visit; even offering to go with them. You can also help by offering to do housework to lower some stress, taking older siblings to the park to give them some time out of the house, offering to help with baby by changing diapers, bathing baby, and burping baby . Support plays a big role in every parent’s breastfeeding journey and makes a huge impact on helping mom to continue breastfeeding.
Finding support for breastfeeding/chest feeding could seem like it would take some digging around. Although this may have been the case even just a few years ago, in most areas there are now many options for lactation help. Most WIC offices have a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor which is a great place to start. A lot of hospitals that have a maternity floor will also have lactation specialists to help moms while at the hospital after delivery. Our local hospitals in Peoria have International Board Certified Lactation Specialists on staff for inpatient and out-patient services. There are many private lactation resources available in our community as well as in most communities. Reach out to your local WIC department for a list of lactation resources.
The benefits of breastfeeding/chest feeding for parents and children show lifelong benefits. Research shows that those who choose to provide human milk to their children have fewer risks of many diseases. Some benefits for the lactating parent include reduces blood loss after delivery; faster recovery; lowers the risk of breast, cervical and ovarian cancers, as well as type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. Some benefits for baby are fewer behavior and learning difficulties, less risk of respiratory infections, ear infections, obesity, childhood cancers, type 1 and 2 diabetes and diarrhea, as well as a significantly lower risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. As more research is being done, more benefits are being discovered. While there are some situations in which parents are unable to provide only human milk and may need to provide supplementation, we do know that any amount of human milk given will still provide many health benefits.
Human breast milk is important for nutrition of babies, especially premature babies, with mother’s milk being the gold standard. For those moms with extra breast milk, consider using the Peoria City/County Health Department’s official Milk Depot as a convenient drop off station. Mother’s Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes uses the Milk Depot to safely collect, screen, process, pasteurize, and dispense human breast milk to hospitals for babies with medical conditions and mothers who cannot supply enough of their own breast milk.
Whether you are a parent in need of support or a friend or family member wanting to find ways to support a loved one, take the time to find the important breastfeeding resources available in our community. You will be doing a great service in supporting infants and families in their breastfeeding/chest feeding journey!