Parents know too well the scene of an infant’s incessant, hunger-fueled squalls filling the silence at 2 a.m.
Sometimes Mom and Dad alike are at a loss for what to do for a child unable to breastfeed.
The Tennessee Department of Health launched a statewide breastfeeding hotline to offer advice and answer questions at any time of the day.
Commissioner John Dreyzehner, M.D., expressed his excitement over the recent launch.
“When we think about how we can protect the health of a baby once she is born, breastfeeding is at the very top of the list, and almost all babies and mothers can reap a host of health, social and economic benefits from this, nature’s perfect baby food,” Dr. Dreyzehner said. “This hotline will help more mothers and babies succeed in their breastfeeding efforts.”
The hotline is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Anyone can call 1-855-4BF-MOMS (1-855-423-6667) for questions regarding breastfeeding. Common questions and concerns include: whether the baby is getting enough milk; breastfeeding in public; using breast pumps; taking medication while breastfeeding; a baby refusing to nurse; and referral for breastfeeding support groups.
Bradley County Department of Health Director Eloise Waters sat down with registered dietician Amy Davenport, breastfeeding peer counselor Kendra Steveson and nutrition educator and certified lactation counselor Traci Elder to discuss the benefits of breastfeeding.
“It is actually part of the birth process for a woman to breastfeed after birth,” Steveson said. “Her body is designed to lactate. So lactation for a woman is her natural process. When you deliver a baby what your body is expecting is you would put the baby to breast right after you give birth.”
The choice between formula and breastfeeding is not a moral one. Instead, Steveson suggested mothers consider the healthiest option.
According to the gathered health professionals, a number of studies conclude breastfeeding can be beneficial for both mother and child. Mothers who breastfeed have fewer incidences of breast cancer and are less likely to develop either cardiovascular disease or ovarian cancer.
Breastfed infants tend to have fewer allergies; fewer incidences of serious illnesses; a higher immunity to viruses; less ear infections; and an ability to digest milk better. Studies also claim breastfed infants have a lower risk of obesity.
Davenport added, “The production of [oxytocin] helps reduce post-partum depression.”
Breastfeeding can be overwhelming for new mothers. Waters reminded concerned parties that the process is learned over time, and is also time-consuming. Mothers sometimes find it difficult to handle both an infant and breastfeeding. The health department director said the process decreases in frequency as the baby ages.
The group also addressed additional resources available for breastfeeding mothers at the health department.
Steveson encouraged mothers with infants to attend the community breastfeeding support group. Anyone pregnant or breastfeeding may attend. She said exhausted mothers often find comfort in being around other people in similar situations.
“It’s really just a way for them to connect and get relief from life and motherhood,” Steveson said. “They talk about their babies and laugh and cut up. A lot of them are funny and have great personalities.”
The group meets every Wednesday afternoon at 2:30 in the health department.
Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers can also reach Steveson with any questions on breastfeeding by calling her work number, 728-7020, ext. 148, or texting 593-1310. She urged family and friends of expectant or breastfeeding mothers to use the state hotline for any breastfeeding-related questions.
Waters offered a word of advice to friends and family of breastfeeding mothers.
“A lot of times people also ask sometimes how they can help. They offer to come over and hold the baby and that kind of thing,” Waters said. “Maybe that is not what the mother needs. She might need you to come over and help do the dishes ... and the laundry, and then maybe you can have the pleasure of holding the baby for a few minutes.”