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National Breastfeeding Awareness Month

Breastfeeding 101: A Q&A with certified lactation consultants

Mother sitting down and breastfeeding baby

In honor of breastfeeding awareness month, VCU Health News sat down with Dr. Gauri Gulati, medical director, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, Outpatient Lactation Clinic, and Valerie Coleman, director of lactation services, to discuss some common questions that parents have about breastfeeding. Both are certified lactation consultants.

How important is it to breastfeed your baby?

Breast milk is the ideal food for infants and one of the most effective ways to keep children and mothers healthy. Research shows that infants fed human milk have fewer and shorter episodes of illness. Breast milk also protects the microbiome of the gut and is a significant source of macronutrients and immune-boosting properties.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months and continuing 2 years or beyond, as mutually desired. This is because human milk improves infant health outcomes such as decreasing asthma, allergies, eczema, cancer, diabetes, leukemia, and infections. It also helps with your baby’s growth and development.

Breastfeeding benefits moms too. Mothers who breastfeed their infants recover from childbirth more quickly and easily. They also have lower risk of breast and ovarian cancers, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and postpartum depression.

What should people know about breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding requires patience and practice. For some people, the learning stages can be challenging and emotional. As the only Richmond hospital designated Baby-Friendly by the World Health Organization, our entire staff is trained to educate, guide and support you during and after your stay with us.

Infants give us feeding cues when they are hungry, by smacking their lips, showing their tongues, and bringing their hands to their faces. We encourage you to watch your baby, not the clock. Given that your baby’s stomach is no bigger than the size of a marble at birth, you may need to feed 8-12 times in 24 hours initially. Crying is a late sign of hunger.

We recommend you keep a feeding log to help record frequency of feedings and diapers. To encourage the establishment of milk supply, it is recommended to avoid a pacifier or artificial nipple until a good latch has occurred and supply is ample.

If I am having difficulty breastfeeding, what should I do?

Breastfeeding is a learned skill. It’s not unusual for families to experience challenging breastfeeding situations. Our trained, compassionate lactation consultants can give you customized recommendations to help you and your baby. We can assist you with positioning, latch, expressing milk, tools, and support.

Seeking expert, personalized care early is important. An in-person or virtual appointment can be made with our Outpatient Lactation Clinic. Learn more about our breastfeeding clinic and lactation consultants.

When should I switch from breastfeeding to solid foods? Can I do both at the same time?

If possible, breast milk is recommended as the sole source of nutrition for the first 6 months. You can then add complementary foods, in addition to human milk for 2 years and beyond. If needed, our team is here to help you.

Is there anything else you’d like for people to know?

We recognize every baby and mom is different. While we strongly recommend breastfeeding, we also understand that there are a variety of reasons that families may not be able to or may chose not to breastfeed. Our trained, compassionate team can offer help and reassurance for all levels of breastfeeding experience – from those who have never breastfed or are struggling to moms who might just need a refresher.

To learn more visit vcumom.com.