MyNorth News Service

(Press Release provided by McLaren Northern Michigan)

PETOSKEY: Impressive cumulative research has proven that breastfeeding is a valuable foundation for the immediate health of infants and their long-term wellbeing. So convincing is the data, hospitals nationwide are moving to promote breastfeeding in families. The promotion is a part of The Healthy People 2020 Target, introduced in 2010 by the Department of Health and Human Services, to improve health quality and health equity for all. And, the breastfeeding initiative is supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics’ policy, which states that breastfeeding is a public health issue — not only a lifestyle choice.

Healthy People 2020 tracks approximately 1,200 objectives organized into 42 topic areas, each of which, breastfeeding included, represents an important public health area. Healthy People 2020 is tasked with bringing the breastfeeding initiation rate to 81.9%, over and above the current national breastfeeding initiation rate of approximately 75%. Local rates are considerably better: McLaren Northern Michigan, as part of its campaign to meet and exceed health care norms across the continuum, had a 2014 breastfeeding initiation rate of 85%. “We have consistently exceeded the state and national levels and we want to do even better,” explains Judy Wojcik, Childbirth Educator and Lactation Counselor at McLaren Northern Michigan.

The Research Behind the Goals: The Benefits of Breastfeeding

Breastmilk is a living substance that literally changes to meet the needs of the baby. “As the baby develops, the composition of fat and protein adjusts itself,” Wojcik says. “It’s really an amazing process that simply cannot be duplicated through the use of formula.” Breast milk has a host of benefits: it provides antibodies and protects against infections; provides up to a 30% reduction in the incidence of type 1 diabetes if the baby is exclusively breastfed for 3 months; reduces the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome; and decreases the chance of ovarian and pre-menopausal breast cancer for women who breastfeed.

Less Is More

Health care professionals have learned over time that the less interference with the labor and early postpartum periods, the easier it is for babies to go to the breast. When a woman is in labor, her levels of the hormone Oxytocin increase to help with the task of childbirth. It helps with pain relief, helps baby to be more alert at birth, and also helps mom and baby to bond. Additionally, Skin-to-Skin (placing baby on mom’s bare chest without clothing or blanket on the baby), as soon after birth as possible, helps to get babies off to a good start. Skin-to-skin contact regulates the baby’s heart rate, body temperature, and breathing; helps babies find their way to breast during the “alert period”, which lasts 1 – 2 hours; and stimulates milk production. “We want to help patients through the birth process and the post partum bonding without creating interference that might hinder the start of breastfeeding,” says Judy Wojcik.

McLaren Northern Michigan Lactation Program

McLaren Northern Michigan offers a prenatal breastfeeding class as part of its Childbirth Education program. The class consists of two hours of prenatal information for both parents, visits from certified lactation counselors during the hospital stay, and phone follow-up consultation after baby and mother have returned home. “Hands-on education about positioning baby and establishing a good start during the hospital stay helps mothers as they transition home,” Wojcik adds. Other class details include dietary needs of the mother and how to know if the baby is getting enough milk.

Expectant parents are strongly encouraged to take the classes offered through the comprehensive Childbirth Education Program. In addition to breastfeeding, classes help parents prepare for pregnancy, childbirth, newborn care, postpartum, and early parenting years. Classes are specifically designed to meet the needs of new parents, and schedules offers a wide variety of options. All classes are taught by McLaren Northern Michigan certified professional childbirth educators. For information and registration details, call (800) 248-6777 or visit