World Breastfeeding Week starting August 1 draws international attention to one of the most natural acts a woman can perform, an experience many women find impossible to describe.
"Breastfeeding, we believe, is the best way for a baby to get nutrition in the first months of life," explains Cindi Zembo, RN, BSN, IBCLC, coordinator of the Lactation Program at Women & Infants Hospital. "Breast milk is nature's perfect baby food."
According to the national Office on Women's Health, breast milk produced just after a baby's birth is "liquid gold" for a newborn since it is rich in nutrients, minerals and vital antibodies that give babies immunity and help prepare their digestive tracts for the mature milk that will come later.
"Mother's milk should be considered 'fine dining' for babies because it has the right combination of proteins and nutrients for the baby's optimal growth," Zembo adds, noting that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be fed with breast milk for their first year of life. "Nothing else can compare."
At Women & Infants, she says nurses place a newborn immediately on the mother's bare chest for important skin-to-skin contact, before teaching new moms how breastfeeding works.
Practice makes perfect
Zembo says that breastfeeding is a skill that new mothers and their babies learn together. At Women & Infants, they learn with a support network of lactation counselors and skilled nurses while they are in the hospital and through the hospital's Warm Line when they go home.
"It takes patience, and we are here to support and encourage them every step of the way," Zembo says.
If you are a new mom and have questions about breastfeeding or anything else about your health or that of your baby, call the Warm Line at 1-800-711-7011, Monday through Friday from 9 am to 9 pm, and weekends from 9 am to 5 pm. They can provide advice and information and can make referrals to the hospital's lactation consultants if necessary.