Community | La Leche League Inland Empire Chapter
By: Ashley Solis
Image Source: Facebook.com/lalecheleagueusa
When a woman breastfeeds her baby, the benefits to the baby and mother are incredible. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, babies who are breastfed for six months are less likely to develop ear infections, diarrhea, childhood obesity and respiratory illnesses.
While breastfeeding is a great option, there are numerous moms who cannot or choose to not breastfeed their children for medical and personal reasons. La Leche League aims to educate women who are thinking about breastfeeding or may be having some challenges around doing so. We had the opportunity to interview Becky Talyn, a support group leader for La Leche League in the Redlands area.
Image Source: Facebook.com/lalecheleagueusa
Q. Tell me about Le Leche League (LLL) and the Inland Empire (IE) Chapter. Also, what is your role?
Becky Talyn: LLL is an international organization that provides breastfeeding support. It is mostly conducted through mother-to-mother support in person, by phone and electronically. LLL also has many breastfeeding related publications. There are several groups in the IE. I am affiliated with the Tri-City/Redlands group as a leader. I've been a leader for about six years and a member since 2004. Our group meets once a month on the second Tuesday of each month at 10a.m. We meet at the University United Methodist Church on Colton Avenue in Redlands. All breastfeeding moms are welcome with their babies and children.
Q. What are the benefits of breastfeeding for the baby? For the mother?
Talyn: There are so many benefits of breastfeeding. For the baby, human milk is ideally composed to meet the needs of a growing baby. It is a living food, changing as the baby grows and develops. The amount of milk changes with the baby's short term and long term needs (i.e. babies often nurse more when they're sick), and the composition also changes as the baby grows. Breast milk contains not only the ideal types and amounts of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and water for a growing baby, but also contains many different factors that help protect the baby from illnesses, both viral and bacterial. In addition, when a baby is exposed to bacteria, the mom is then exposed and makes antibodies to that bacterium. Some of those are then passed back to the baby through the milk, providing immune protection to the baby. This reduces the risk of SIDS, intestinal infections, respiratory infections, etc.
Breast milk is also metabolized more quickly than other food and promotes a different kind of growth of fat tissue in the baby (fat cells grow larger rather than dividing to make more small cells) that reduces the risk of childhood obesity. Breastfeeding decreases the chances of the baby developing food and other allergies. Breastfeeding reduces the chance of certain types of jaw and teeth problems through normal development. Other well documented but less well understood benefits include lower risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes as adults. Other benefits are less medical, but still very important. For example, breastfed babies have slightly but consistently (across studies) higher IQs. Breastfed babies tend to be more secure, and therefore also more independent.
For the mom, breastfeeding right after giving birth stimulates production of oxytocin, which helps the uterus to contract back to its pre-pregnancy size and shape and reduces the chances of hemorrhage. Breastfeeding uses calories, so it helps many moms lose much of the extra pregnancy weight. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes for the mom. Also, moms of breastfed babies often get more sleep, especially when the baby sleeps in the mom's bed or bedroom. Breastfeeding is easier, since there is no formula to warm or bottles to wash. Bonding is great for a mom’s as well as baby's well-being. Breast milk is essentially free, and breastfeeding is environmentally friendly. For working moms, breastfeeding usually means missing less work because baby is sick, since breastfed babies are sick less often and for less time when they are.
Q. What are the common myths associated with breastfeeding?
Talyn: Wow, there are so many, and I hear new ones all the time. One myth is that it should come naturally. In reality, we are not exposed to breastfeeding, and since most of us have no idea, it takes some time to figure out.
Another myth is that it is normal for breastfeeding to hurt at first. While it may be a little uncomfortable until mom and baby get used to it, if it hurts, if it makes your toes curl or makes you cry, something isn't quite right. It is usually that the baby isn't latched on exactly right, and is often really easy to fix. Sometimes there may be other problems, but if it hurts, mom should get help.
There are also myths about breast size and milk production and about milk supply in general. Even moms with very small breasts can produce plenty of milk for their baby. In general, moms' bodies can almost always make enough milk. Milk supply problems are much less common than people think, and when they do exist are almost always the result of either another problem like poor latch, or bad advice like supplementing when it wasn't actually necessary.
Q. What are some challenges that women may face if they choose to breastfeed?
Talyn: The biggest challenges usually center on having to deal with lots of people offering lots of different advice, which may or may not be good advice. Many moms also take some time or require help to get a great latch that is comfortable and effective. Some other problems include thrush, mastitis, tong or lip tie and engorgement. Some moms struggle with breastfeeding in public, though this can usually be easily overcome with practice.
Q. What are some reasons that a mother may choose to not breastfeed her baby?
Talyn: Moms who are infected with TB or HIV should not breastfeed. Babies who have galactosemia should not breastfeed. Moms who have to take a prescription that is not safe for baby, and no alternative medication is available, should not breastfeed. Also, moms who use most types of recreational drugs and are not willing to stop should not breastfeed. Moms who have had breast surgery may or may not be able to breastfeed.
Most of the reasons that moms choose not to breastfeed are cultural. Even though the medical benefits are substantial, and even though people have been breastfeeding for thousands of years, there are many segments of culture in the United States and in California to which breastfeeding is not considered normal. Social pressure and lack of support is by far the biggest reason that moms don't breastfeed.
Q. What are some tips you’d like to share with other moms who are thinking about breastfeeding?
Talyn: Get support. If your family isn't supportive, find a clinic, LLL group, lactation consultant, play group, or other place to talk to moms with experience breastfeeding and get the support that will help you face any challenges. This is especially important in the first few days, which can be especially challenging for many moms since it is such a new experience. Start to have this in place before the baby is even born. Bring the phone number of your LLL leader or lactation consultant to the hospital with you. Most hospitals do have lactation consultants, but sometimes they are more limited in what they can do, and often they have limited hours. Know how to contact someone you trust.
Trust yourself. Even if it doesn't feel like a lot, you know more about your body and your baby than anyone else. If something doesn't feel right, get help. Find ahead of time that you trust to help you in these situations, and seek their advice.
Q. When and where are local La Leche League meetings in the IE? What other resources are offered to breastfeeding mothers?
Talyn: All the meetings in the IE are listed at lllie.org, as is contact information for many of the leaders. Many of the hospitals in the area have free breastfeeding clinics. I usually recommend the one at the Riverside Community Hospital Women's Services, which is on Brockton Avenue and is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9a.m. to 1p.m. Many lactation consultants in the area have private practices and conduct home visits.
Q: How can the community support LLL?
Talyn: Certainly financial contributions are always welcome. Spreading the word about LLL and meetings to expecting and new moms is probably the biggest thing, getting moms to LLL when they need it most. We can also participate in community events, and like to get out the word that way.