Tahlequah Daily Press

Features

August 7, 2013

Breastfeeding on the rise, locals say

TAHLEQUAH — Caring for a newborn can be tricky. Finding the right tools - especially when it comes to food – can be the difference between delight and despair.

According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control, breastfeeding in the U.S. is on the rise. Between 2000 and 2010, babies who were first breastfed rose 6 percent, from 71 percent in 2000 to 77 percent in 2010.

World Breastfeeding Week kicked off last Friday, and Tom Friedman, director of the CDC, believes the new data show positive progress.

“This is great news for the health of our nation, because babies who are breastfed have lower risks of ear and gastrointestinal infections, and mothers who breastfeed have lower risks of breast and ovarian cancers,” said Friedman in a press release.

Jessica Akin, registered nurse and obstetrics clinical coordinator at Tahlequah City Hospital, agrees.

“Breastmilk provides babies the most perfect nutrients and antibodies they need to get a great start in life,” said Akin.

The Cherokee County Health Department views breastfeeding as the normal and healthy way of feeding babies. Officials with CCHD believe breastfeeding helps babies get the best start in life.

“The experience of breastfeeding is special for so many reasons: the wonderful bonding with your baby, the cost savings, and the health benefits for both mother and baby are huge,” said Christin Hullinger, CCHD nurse. “Research shows there are many long-term health benefits for infants who are breastfed exclusively for six months or longer. These benefits reduce chronic diseases, such as obesity, type 1 and 2 diabetes, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and some childhood lymphomas and leukemia.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a mother breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of a baby’s life. After six months, they recommend breastfeeding continue, along with complementary foods for the first year.

Area resident Kelli Odeneal is the mother of two, ages 3 and almost 1. She intends to breastfeed her younger child until he is 2.

“The overwhelming majority of the medical community encourages breastfeeding,” said Odeneal. “The World Health Organization recommends nursing through the second year, which I fully plan to do, unless Felix self-weans.”

While Odeneal practices extended nursing, she believes she’s in the minority.

“I think nursing past the first few days/weeks puts a mother in the overwhelming minority,” said Odeneal. “It’s not the fault of the mother, but there is not a lot of local education or proper support.”

Odeneal believes it’s easy for a parent, who is sent home with formula samples, to try bottle feeding “just this time,” which then becomes an easier option for a struggling mom. With her second child, Odeneal just pushed everyone aside and followed her son’s lead, ignoring all the conflicting advice that led her astray the first time.

“Obviously, nursing is the more natural choice,” said Odeneal. “Your body communicates with the child and creates the perfect food that the baby needs.  I’ve read studies that suggest milk changes over the course of a nursing relationship.”

Odeneal doesn’t necessarily believe women who nurse form stronger bonds with their children, but it does have benefits.

“I do think it gives a mom a better handle on reading the baby’s cues,” said Odeneal. “It’s easier to notice the little movements or motions that indicate hunger, which also lead to noticing other things like needing sleep, which can lead to a baby who cries less.”

Breastfeeding fits Odeneal’s family.

“Breastfeeding fits our lifestyle of attached or peaceful parenting,” she said. “In addition to exclusively/ extended nursing, we practice non-violence, co-sleeping, and baby-wearing.”

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