The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants be “exclusively breastfed for about the first six months with continued breastfeeding alongside introduction of appropriate complementary foods, for one year or longer.”
Breastfeeding “is the best nutrition that we can provide for our babies,” said Amanda Bekkedahl, RN, a certified lactation counselor with Trinity Health’s Family Birth Center. “It also has a lot of health benefits for moms. Overall, it’s the best for mom and baby.”
For babies, breastfeeding helps with digestive issues and cuts down on incidence of type 2 diabetes later in life, as well as ear infections and common colds, as they are getting those antibodies from breast milk, Bekkedahl said, adding that breastfeeding also lowers rates of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Mothers benefit as well; breastfeeding has been shown to decrease ovarian and breast cancers and helps with postpartum issues.
With the benefits of breastfeeding comes the myths, which Bekkedahl hopes education about the topic will dispel.
“The big one that comes to mind is a lot of people think it’s painful or hard,” she said, noting that some mothers may be uncomfortable with breastfeeding, especially if they “aren’t from a family with breastfeeders.” However, with the proper support and education, breastfeeding mothers are provided with new knowledge that makes it easier to be more comfortable to breastfeed in public or at family functions.
“During the first few weeks, when the breastfeeding relationship is being established, it does take a lot of work and can be trying at times,” she said. “Once you get a good foundation in that relationship, it really is pretty smooth sailing and easy going for mom and baby.”
Additionally, mothers may be concerned that if they have never breastfed before or they tried with their first child and “it didn’t work out,” they can’t breastfeed subsequent babies. “Women sometimes worry that they won’t be able to continue once they return to work, or if other women in their family have a history of not producing breastmilk, they worry they won’t be able to as well,” Bekkedahl said. “Those are all common myths that a lot of women think about before and after, when they are choosing how to feed their babies.”
Last year, during National Breastfeeding Month (August), Trinity Health announced a program aimed at promoting breastfeeding success among mothers who give birth at Trinity Health.
“Our goal through the lactation program is to support any choice the mom makes,” Bekkedahl said. “Breastfeeding is best for as little or as long as the mother and baby want that relationship. We want to be there in the first few days and afterwards to support that to make it as successful as possible.”
In addition, Trinity Health offers a class and support group to aid in breastfeeding. Breast is Best is a support group for any mother who breastfeeds or is planning to breastfeed. “We want to provide a group where women can go and feel supported and comfortable and empowered and really have it be a medically facilitated, but peer-led and supported group,” Bekkedahl said. The group meets the third Tuesday of each month, from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m., at With Room Coffee, located at 400 Central Ave E, Ste 103, Minot. The meetings had been halted, due to COVID-19, but Bekkedahl said she hopes the meetings will resume in August or September; be sure to call the Mother Baby Unit or check the Trinity Health website or Facebook page to see when the meetings will resume.
Furthermore, education for breastfeeding is also available. Breastfeeding Basics is a class to provide education for expecting mothers to prepare themselves. “It helps transition the birthing process and start the breastfeeding process more smoothly,” Bekkedahl said. The classes, she noted, provide “a really good opportunity for spouses or support people to attend with expecting moms. There’s a lot of education on how they can be helpful and support the breastfeeding relationship, even though they aren’t the ones doing the feeding.”
The class is held the second Thursday of each month at Health Center – Riverside, 1900 8th Ave SE, Minot. Enrollment for this class is limited, and registration is required; sign up for classes at trinityhealth.org/familybirth_registration. If you have any questions, call Danica Schaefer at 701-857-2352.