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Every mother wants to give their baby the best possible start in life. If you are expecting, you are probably wondering about breastfeeding. You may be concerned about some of the challenges you hear new moms face when they start nursing — particularly if this is your first child. And you likely heard about the recent baby formula shortage caused by pandemic supply issues and a recall by a major manufacturer.

Choosing to breastfeed your baby is a personal choice. Studies have shown that breast milk has numerous benefits for both mom and baby when compared with formula. Still, some women may feel it is not right for them, while others are not physically able to nurse. 

Regardless of what method you choose, Summit Health has a multispecialty team to support you and answer any questions you may have. Lactation consultants are certified health care professionals, commonly registered nurses, who are trained to help mothers breastfeed their babies. 

“There are many ways to feed your baby and we are here to support moms in whatever method they choose,” says Kathleen Mueller, DNP, RN, CPNP-PC, IBCLC, APN, an advanced practice nurse and lactation consultant at Summit Health who works closely with pediatricians and OB/GYNs. “You may want to nurse on the breast, pump or express your milk and use a bottle, or supplement with formula. We are here to discuss all the different options out there.”

Benefits of breastfeeding 

Breast milk is an ideal form of nutrition. Mom’s breast milk is individually formulated for the baby — it contains the perfect nutrients to support growth and development as well as essential immunoglobulins that help protect the baby against infection.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that — whenever possible — babies be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life. If you choose to continue nursing, the AAP says there are additional benefits for up to 2 years. Your baby’s pediatrician will help you find a feeding plan that works for your family.

Babies who are breastfed have been found to have many advantages, including: 

  • Increased immunity against disease — less likely to develop upper respiratory, ear, and gastric infections 
  • Better long-term health — reduced rates of chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, obesity, childhood cancers, and Crohn's disease
  • Enhanced cognitive development with prolonged breastfeeding 

Breastfeeding also benefits mom in many ways. Nursing can: 

  • Reduce rates of developing chronic conditions later in life, including breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure
  • Promote healing and speed up weight loss 
  • Strengthen the emotional bond between mother and baby, as well as alleviate symptoms of postpartum depression 
  • Increase convenience as breastfeeding can be done anywhere, and no supplies are needed 

Common breastfeeding challenges

The first few weeks of nursing are the hardest. While more than 83 percent of mothers start out breastfeeding, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, many mothers stop earlier than recommended. 

Summit Health’s lactation consultant Kathleen Mueller encourages new mothers to stick with nursing. Most of her patients find it becomes easier with time. “It is crucial we engage these moms during the first two to four weeks after their baby is born when they have all these questions,” she adds. 

Lactation services can help

When a newborn is in the hospital, the mother’s milk production may not be strong enough yet to satisfy the baby. Many infants also struggle to latch on to the breast properly at first, which can lead to nipple damage and pain.  

These are the most common reasons patients are referred to Summit Health’s lactation services by their pediatrician or OB/GYN. Consultants help educate and support patients with concerns around topics like:  

  • Latching difficulties and positioning
  • Breastfeeding schedule
  • Baby’s sleep and mood around feedings
  • Milk supply
  • Baby’s weight gain
  • Formula supplements
  • Breast and nipple pain
  • Nipple confusion

Patients can be seen as often as needed. Mothers can interact virtually through a teleheath visit, in office, by telephone, or through the Summit Health patient portal.

Kathleen Mueller has advanced training and education in maternal/child and pediatric health care. In addition to breastfeeding and lactation care expertise, she can provide:

  • Physical examinations
  • Growth and development assessments
  • Evaluation and intervention for allergy concerns
  • Help for mothers of multiples
  • Advice on developing a sleep schedule 

Research shows that moms who receive lactation support are more likely to continue breastfeeding. “We are here to support these mothers and help make both mom and baby healthier. By providing babies with the perfect nutrition, we can alter the course of their health care,” she says.