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Aug 03 2016

Encouraging Breastfeeding – My Experience

By: Kathy Pillow-Price, Ed.D; ACH Director of the Arkansas Home Visiting Network

August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month and a time to consider how home visitors can encourage expectant mothers to try breastfeeding!

Research has shown that breast milk can be the best choice for infants and families. However, the choice to breastfeed is a highly personal one that mothers and families have to make individually. Given the importance of breastfeeding for the health and well-being of mothers and children, it is important for home visitors to learn and share breastfeeding information with families. Expectant moms and their family members need accurate information in order to make an informed choice to breastfeed, and they need assistance to make the experience more relaxed, enjoyable, and manageable. Home visitors are in a perfect position to give beneficial breastfeeding support!

It’s been 26 years since I made the decision to breastfeed my first child after learning about its benefits in my college child development class.  In 1990 breastfeeding rates had been decreasing in the United States, and a 1991 American Academy of Pediatrics article stated that the decline was likely to cause a “serious public health problem” if it continued. I knew very few young mothers that were breastfeeding or even considering it. My own mother had not breastfed! That left me with the support of one friend who was breastfeeding, my OB-GYN doctor, and my grandmother who had breastfed her own children. That’s all it took though – a few encouraging people and some very positive information.


I offer the following tips for home visitors to start the discussion to encourage expectant moms to breastfeed.

    1. Be enthusiastic and knowledgeable with mothers. People are drawn to enthusiasm! Share with your families that research shows breast milk is the perfect food for babies as it assists with brain growth, is easier for baby’s to digest which reduces tummy problems, and that breastfed babies get sick less often.

2. Educate other family members and support individuals. Studies show a big factor in the decision as to whether or not a mom will initiate breastfeeding is whether or not the father or other family members approve. When speaking to other family members go back to being enthusiastic and discuss benefits with them like: It’s free, there’s no bottles to wash, and diapers don’t smell as bad. Point out ways they can interact with the baby like cuddling, bathing, or playing with him or her knowing they will have the chance to feed the baby later on. It’s important for a breastfeeding mom to feel supported in her decision by her family and friends.

3. Ask moms to consider “trying” breastfeeding for the first few weeks .Don’t ask for a long-term commitment but rather ask them to be open to trying it for the first two weeks. Remain nonjudgmental and understand they may need extra support. This is especially important when mothers are in the hospital at birth and may be undecided about breastfeeding right up to the baby’s delivery.

4. Be willing to share your experiences and know where to go to get answers to their questions. If you have positive experiences with breastfeeding – share them! The USDA WIC program has shown that mothers are willing to accept advice about breastfeeding from those they trust. Be honest with your families if you haven’t experienced breastfeeding. There are many websites and resources with helpful information on breastfeeding that can be shared with families. The following websites provide information and resources like fact sheets and pamphlets!

I consider myself one of breastfeeding’s biggest champions. I went into it all those years ago wanting to try it because I knew it would be good for my baby. I didn’t realize the incredible bond that would form between my child and me as I gave her the best nutritional start possible. Deciding to breastfeed my three children until their first birthdays is one of the BEST things I’ve ever done. Each experience was different but with each child, but I saw benefits in bonding with them and all three were extremely healthy overall. I love that I was able to build a close bond with them from the beginning of their lives. I actively encourage home visitors to talk with their families about the benefits of breastfeeding, and to provide support and enthusiasm for breastfeeding.

Something to Remember

The Arkansas Department of Health has a breastfeeding help line that is answered Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. by lactation specialists. There is no charge for their information and advice. Their number is 1-800-445-6175


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