Thrive by IU Health

August 28, 2023

Helping families feed their babies

IU Health Bloomington Hospital

Helping families feed their babies

There’s no one-size-fits-all way to raise a strong, happy, healthy child. Every child and family has unique circumstances to navigate, including the question of how to feed your infant.

And if breastfeeding is your choice, having the necessary resources is essential.

Linda Ebright, CNM

Linda Ebright, CNM, with IU Health Southern Indiana Physicians OBGYN, knows first-hand how common it can be for individuals to struggle with breastfeeding, especially initially.

“Yes, it is important to feed the baby, and we’re all thankful for donor milk and formula when needed,” says Ebright. “But if a person chooses to breastfeed, they should be able to access the resources they need to hopefully be successful, and their values and desires should be central to the care plan.”

The list of benefits to breastfeeding continues to grow, which makes it all the more important to help those who want to breastfeed their children. Research has shown that these benefits include:

  • Providing babies with their nutritional needs
  • Protecting babies from illnesses and helping build their immune systems
  • Decreased ear infections and hospitalizations as babies
  • Lower rates of obesity and diabetes when they grow into adulthood
  • Some cancers, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure are less common in women who breastfed their children

“As a lactation consultant, there were times I would work with people who wanted to exclusively breastfeed their babies so badly, but struggled to make enough milk, or perhaps had latch issues that prevented that from happening,” says Ebright. “This can be so hard, emotionally.”

It’s important to remember that giving a baby any amount of breast milk can be helpful since each teaspoon is full of living immune cells. Ebright also likes to share with parents an anecdote she once heard, “Kindergarten teachers cannot tell which kids were breastfed, but they can tell who was read to as a small child.”

“There are so many important aspects to the parent-child bond, and you can be a really amazing parent and have a strong bond with your child without exclusive breastfeeding,” says Ebright. “This also applies to people who may not want to breastfeed at all.”

She continues to explain how it’s essential to support families where they are. Sometimes, a person’s past experiences or current resources can impact what they can or want to do.

“But if someone wants to breastfeed, we want to help them be as successful as possible in meeting their goals,” she says.

There is help in the community, including IU Health Bloomington lactation consultants, La Leche League, Milk Matters, local WIC offices and local obstetric offices.

“When talking about breastfeeding to pregnant and postpartum people, the most important message that I want them to hear is that there is help,” says Ebright. “It’s not uncommon to struggle with breastfeeding at first, but many people in this community want to help you work through these challenges.”

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