A new baby changes everything. For first-time parents you’re going home with a brand-new person, who you are now fully responsible for keeping alive. As if that isn’t enough, for breastfeeding mothers, you’re now also tasked with learning how to breastfeed (and also teaching your child how to do it too).
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for about the first 6 months. Many new mothers have plans to breastfeed at least that long, but 60 percent of mothers do not breastfeed as long as they intend to.
“Early-life nutrition, particularly breastfeeding, can have positive impacts on childhood illnesses, obesity, cognitive development, rates of hospitalization and later chronic disease,” said Caitlin Muhlbach, labor and delivery RN and lactation consultant at Meritus Medical Center.
Muhlbach is a mother of two children, a 3-year-old boy and a 7-month-old girl. She worked as a labor and delivery nurse when her first child was born, and before she was a mother herself, she helped many mothers with breastfeeding.
While that experience gave her more knowledge than the average new parent, Muhlbach said that didn’t mean that she didn’t have questions of her own.
“There were so many things to navigate, and some unexpected challenges. Thankfully, I stuck with it after about six weeks of difficulty, and we finally got it figured out,” she said, adding that she went on to breastfeed her son for a little over two years.
The experience also impacted her career. While many mothers will tell you that it’s hard going back to work after having a baby and can be challenging to find time (and space) to pump in the office, Muhlbach blended her love for breastfeeding into her work even more than before.
“For me, breastfeeding has become a really joyous part of motherhood, and I want to help other mothers and families to experience that. I decided to make the switch to become a lactation consultant, so that I could help provide more care and education to our breastfeeding patients,” she said.
Lactation consultants at Meritus Medical Center provide personalized care to mothers and babies depending on personal situations, wishes and medical needs. They provide education, observe feedings and answer questions.
Mothers can reach out to the lactation consultants after they leave the hospital and for however long they continue their breastfeeding journey; they can also help with the transition back to work.
“I am currently breastfeeding my daughter, and now I have a unique opportunity to connect with my patients in the same phase of their life. I can empathize with them at their challenges, rejoice at their successes and point them in the direction of up-to-date resources,” Muhlbach said.
Like anything new, nursing a new baby takes practice and knowledge to get it right. Those who go through classes and join support groups are more likely to find success and better navigate any challenges along the way.
Meritus' Breastfeeding Support Group serves as a place to discuss topics on breastfeeding and motherhood, answer questions and concerns, observe feedings and do weight checks as needed.
· When: Second and fourth Saturday of each month.
· Where: Robinwood Professional Center Suite 122-B (Green Entrance)
· Time: 10:30 a.m. - noon
· Bring baby! For more information call 301-790-8530 or 301-790-8907.
The decision to breastfeed or formula feed your baby is a personal one. Talking to your doctor and weighing the pros and cons of each method can help you to decide what is best for you and your family.