(by: Kathy Amell, IBCLC, RLC – St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center)
For the past 20 years there has been something relatively quiet happening every August. Since 1992, the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) has issued a theme to help promote breastfeeding worldwide.
Their goal is to support mothers and babies in their effort to have successful breastfeeding experiences. This year’s theme is: Breastfeeding Support – Close to Mothers, and the goal is to highlight the role of a strong support system for a new mother who is breastfeeding her child.
Continued support to sustain breastfeeding can be provided in a variety of ways. Traditionally, support is provided by the family. As societies morph, in particular with urbanization, support for mothers from a wider circle is needed – whether it is provided by trained health workers, lactation consultants, community leaders, friends who are also mothers, and/or from fathers/partners.
The breastfeeding circle of support holds the mother at the center. Surrounding her and providing her with a vital support system are the following:
Family & Friends
A new mom’s family, friends and social network are her immediate support system. They provide her with the traditional support a new mom needs throughout her breastfeeding journey, but particularly at the beginning. This can include her surrounding neighbors, friends and religious community.
Workplace and Employer
The encouragement of the people a new mom works with can give her an increased chance of long-term breastfeeding success. The Texas Department of State Health Services has a program employers can participate in called the Mother-Friendly Worksite that makes it easier to implement policies to help breastfeeding moms.
Healthcare support can range from mother-friendly prenatal care and supportive labor and delivery services to postpartum and postnatal care that facilitates bonding and optimal infant feeding. Health workers trained in counseling skills can support mothers before and after birth. St. David’s HealthCare offers a multitude of services to help new moms in their breastfeeding journey. Our facilities are also Texas 10 Step Providers. To learn more click here.
Government & Legislation
There are many international documents aimed at protecting mothers from aggressive marketing of breastmilk substitutes. Texas has legislation in place that creates laws that protect a mother’s right to breastfeed her infant in public.
Our own Texas Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program also has a peer counselor program that provides training to mothers who wish to assist other mothers in their breastfeeding journey. For more information on the WIC counseling program click here.
Crisis & Emergency Situations
Mothers also need support if they find themselves in crisis like natural disasters, major illnesses of herself or her baby or even a divorce proceeding, to name a few. Situations that require special planning and support are: natural disasters, refugee camps, divorce proceedings, critical illness of mother or baby, or living in an area of high HIV/AIDS prevalence with no support for breastfeeding.
In view of the circle of support mothers need, WABA shares five ways to support mothers worldwide:
- To draw attention to the importance of Peer Support in helping mothers to establish and maintain breastfeeding.
- To inform people of the highly effective benefits of Peer Counseling, and unite efforts to expand peer counseling programs.
- To encourage breastfeeding supporters, regardless of their educational background, to step forward and be trained to support mothers and babies.
- To identify local community support contacts for breastfeeding mothers that women can go to for help and support after giving birth.
- To call on governments and maternity facilities globally to actively implement the Ten Steps, in particular step 10, to improve duration and rates of exclusive breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding Support in Central Texas
If you are looking for additional resources to assist you in your breastfeeding journey, know that assistance is right at your fingertips. There are several Private Practice Lactation Consultants in the Austin Area. You can click here to visit the International Lactation Consultant Association website to find a board certified consultant near you. La Leche League International also has a strong presence in our community, and they provide free lay person lactation support to those who need it. If you are hoping to find a La Leche League group near you, click here.
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