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Moms, health professonals steadfast in their beliefs in breastfeeding

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At A Glance

The payoff for businesses that support their breastfeeding employees includes the following:

Retention of experienced employees

Reduction in sick time taken by both moms and dads for children’s illnesses

Lower health care and insurance costs

More satisfied, loyal employees

Companies that build goodwill in the community are set apart from their competitors and have a competitive advantage when recruiting new staff

Large return on investment

How employers can make work environment conducive to nursing women:

Provide a lactation room — a clean, safe, comfortable room for them to express milk in privacy. A lactation room is one of the health benefits most valued by breastfeeding employees.

Make sure employees are allowed two or three 15-minute breaks each eight-hour shift (normal break times are usually sufficient) for milk expression.

Offer a “return to work” class for pregnant employees and their partners and family members led by the human resources department. The goal is to anticipate the type of breastfeeding support they will need when they return to work.

Give support. A positive, accepting attitude from superiors and co-workers helps employees feel good about their decision to continue breastfeeding after they return to work.

Source: (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

Updated: February 26, 2012 8:08AM

The nursing mother sit-ins at Target stores across the nation in December brought to light once again the value many new mothers place on feeding their babies what some call the “liquid gold” of nutrition — breast milk.

The sit-ins were designed to protest the allegations that employees at a Texas Target told a nursing customer she could not nurse in public inside the store, but instead should go to a fitting room to breastfeed her baby.

There are still issues nursing women and the health community face with women breastfeeding in public, but as more and more information surfaces on nursing’s health benefits not only to the baby, but also to the mother, it is becoming more acceptable.

“About 75 percent of mothers are breastfeeding today,” said Silver Cross Hospital lactation consultant Katy Lebbing. “That number is much higher in some other parts of the world. In Australia, it’s 96 percent.”

Lebbing said babies who nurse have fewer ear infections and less gastroenteritis. There are also fewer cases of sudden infant death syndrome in babies who are breastfed, and their chances of future obesity, diabetes and heart disease are less.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, other research has shown that breastfed babies have fewer lower respiratory infections, asthma, Type 2 diabetes, and possibly also Type 1 diabetes, skin rashes, and childhood leukemia.

Lebbing said she believes the rates of obesity are lower because mothers make the perfect amount of milk for their babies.

“With formula,” she said, “they just keep chugging it down.”

Moms benefit too

Mothers who breastfeed may also, surprisingly, have several health benefits, including decreased risks of Type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer and post-partum depression.

And a wonderful bonus, Lebbing said, is the hormone rush mothers may feel.

“It’s a euphoric, happy feeling,” she said.

In addition to the obvious health benefits, facts show nursing mothers burn an additional 200-500 calories a day producing milk. That’s like swimming 30 laps in a pool or bicycling uphill an hour a day.

It’s less expensive to nurse than to feed a baby formula also, and business managers are even finding it’s worth their fiscal while to create a private, clean nursing space at work for new moms to express breast milk with a pump.

Melba Groves of Minooka made the decision to nurse all four of her children.

“It seemed the natural thing to do,” she said.

Groves admitted it wasn’t easy at first. She got support for it, though, and attended La Leche meetings, where she learned more about technique and became more comfortable with the whole process. With her fourth child, she was even comfortable enough to nurse on a family outing at a theme park.

In addition to the health benefits, Groves said nursing formed a strong bond between her and her children that lasted even through their teens and beyond.

Lebbing said there are some women who should not consider breastfeeding, and those are women who have HIV and some other types of serious illnesses, those on chemotherapy and women who have had some types of breast surgery.

For those who are able to nurse, Lebbing said they will benefit in many ways. Find someone to show you how, she said. It will make it much easier.

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