The St. Maarten Medical Center Obstetrics/Gynaecology (OB/GYN) Department’s Breastfeeding Committee is celebrating International Breastfeeding Awareness for the month of August. The committee’s goal is to reinforce community awareness on the benefits and importance of breastfeeding and informs the general public as follows.

Making the decision whether to breastfeed, or not, is a decision that every expectant mom has to make. Breastfeeding offers many benefits for both mother and baby.

It helps babies get proper nutrition and can help mothers recover from pregnancy and delivery. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that breastfeeding begins within the first hour of a baby's life and continues as often and as much as the baby wants.

Expectant mothers planning to breastfeed are encouraged to discuss breastfeeding with their gynaecologist/obstetrician, midwife or nurse before giving birth. Although breastfeeding is a natural thing to do, most new mothers need to learn how.

Nursing a new baby may pose unexpected challenges. It will take time for both mother and baby to learn this new skill of breastfeeding. SMMC’s OB/GYN nurses provide great support to help new mothers learn the process of breastfeeding their baby.

Support begins in the first few minutes or hours after delivery, when it’s critical to develop successful breastfeeding habits. A nurse or a lactation consultant will provide the mother with general breastfeeding advice, best practices and will observe the mom as she breastfeeds her baby.

During this observation, the nurse or lactation consultant will monitor for any signs of poor breastfeeding. The support to the mother includes, but is not limited to:

* Educating the mother about normal newborn patterns and feeding cues.

* Giving verbal coaching and encouragement.

* Providing hands-on corrections or adjustments to help mom and baby find a more successful or comfortable feeding position.

* Providing tracking tools such as feeding and voiding logs.

* Teaching the mother how to maintain lactation and ease discomfort using manual expression and breast pumps.

* Treating infections, chafing and other physical issues.

For mothers wanting to breastfeed but can’t due to medical reasons or otherwise, bonding with your baby by holding your baby and cuddling as much as possible is always encouraged.

Breastfeeding is a choice. However, if a mother does not have that choice, or if she chooses not to, of course the nurse or lactation consultant will be there to provide information on the best possible way to care for your baby while bottle-feeding.

What are the benefits of breastfeeding?

There are substantial potential health benefits from breastfeeding. These benefits include:

* Decreased rates of sudden infant death syndrome in the first year of life.

* Lower post neonatal infant mortality rates.

* Decreased risk of baby developing eczema, asthma, and food allergies later in life.

* Slightly enhanced performance on tests of cognitive development.

* Lower incidence of infectious diseases, such as diarrhoea, pneumonia, ear infection, respiratory tract illness bacterial meningitis, urinary tract infection, bacteraemia, necrotizing enterocolitis, and late onset sepsis in preterm infants.

* Improved dental health with less risk of tooth decay.

* Reduction of the risk of obesity later in life when exclusively breastfed for at least four months.

The health benefits of breastfeeding are not only limited to the baby, but for the mothers as well. These include:

* A unique and powerful physical and emotional connection between mother and baby.

* A non-verbal communication and bond with your baby that only grows to support an ever more intimate and effortless mutual exchange, especially if you stay present while nursing with lots of touching, talking, singing and eye contact.

* Stimulation of your body to produce antibodies in your milk which in turn helps your baby stay well or recover faster if sick.

* Help with your return to your pre-pregnancy weight by increasing your energy requirements, promoting the mobilization of fat stores, and quickens your uterus to contract to its pre-pregnancy size.

* Decreased risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

* Possibly decreased risk of hip fractures and osteoporosis in the post-menopausal period.

The committee’s conclusion: “Educate yourself as much as you can on breastfeeding, latching and what to expect in the first few weeks of nursing. You’ll be swept up in lots of excitement when your baby is born, so having some initial familiarity with these concepts will help with the transition. We encourage LIQUID LOVE.”