What Every Mom-to-be Should Know About Breastfeeding Before She Delivers


Young woman breast feeding her baby and holding in arms

More moms are breastfeeding their infants. And for good reason. Studies continue to show that breastfeeding is still the most nutritious, healthy, economical and environmentally friendly method for mothers to feed their infants.  Not only is it better for infants, but breastfeeding offers many benefits to moms.

“I don’t think people realize the long-term benefits of breastfeeding for infants and the depth of the benefits for mom,” said Lori Eckenrode, BSN, RNC, Clinical Manager of Lactation and Perinatal Education at Women’s Memorial Hermann at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Hospital. “Sometimes people only see the immediate resolution and benefits to the baby.”

In fact, there is an abundance of research and literature that speaks to the benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and baby:

  • Breast feeding helps protect infants from ailments and illnesses like diarrhea, ear infections and pneumonia; reduces the risk of developing asthma, of becoming obese and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), according to the S. Surgeon General’s call to action to support breastfeeding in 2011.
  • Breastfed children have fewer and less serious illnesses than those who never receive breast milk, including childhood cancers and diabetes, according to Baby-Friendly USA, Inc. And mothers who breastfed were shown to have a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
  • Following breastfeeding guidelines for the first six months of an infant’s life range from simple cost savings for formula alone of $1,200-1,500 per family, to billions of dollars in healthcare costs each year for the country.
  • More recently, a two-part study published in The Lancet concluded that more than 800,000 deaths of children under the age of five and 20,000 breast cancer deaths worldwide could be prevented annually if all infants were breastfed through six months of age. The study also found that breastfeeding was associated with improved intelligence for people who were breastfed, based on IQ scores.


Hospital Lactation Centers Offer Breastfeeding Support and Education

“Educating families prior to the delivery is very important,” Eckenrode said. “Our goal is to not only get that information to the families directly or through their obstetrician, but to help them access our resources available for successful, sustained breastfeeding.”

The Women’s Memorial Hermann Lactation Center works in conjunction with the Family Birthing Center at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands to help mothers with questions and important decisions before and after delivery, and on an inpatient and outpatient basis.

Internationally board-certified lactation consultants (IBCLC) are available every day at the Lactation Center to answer questions and share proper breastfeeding techniques and tips. The center also features a shop with apparel and bras for breastfeeding moms, pump rentals, fittings and educational materials. Outpatient consultations are available Monday through Friday.

There is also a phone line staffed by a consultant from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily for families to call for support: 713.897.5832.

Every Wednesday, the Lactation Center hosts a free breastfeeding support group. It’s open to all moms, even those who did not deliver at the hospital. The hospital also serves as a depot drop-off site for the Mother’s Milk Bank of Austin, which accepts  breast milk donations that are then prescribed to infants in a hospital setting.

Not All Hospitals Are Baby-friendly

Memorial Hermann The Woodlands recently became one of just five hospitals in the Greater Houston area, including Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, to receive prestigious international recognition as a Baby-Friendly® Designated birth facility by Baby-Friendly USA, Inc.

Baby-Friendly hospitals inform moms-to-be about the benefits and management of breastfeeding. Moms are encouraged to initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth. Lactation consultants and nurses are available to help show breastfeeding techniques and how to maintain lactation – even when moms are separated from their infants.  These hospitals also allow infants to room in with their moms to help encourage breastfeeding on demand and give infants no food or drink other than breast milk, unless medically indicated.

In addition to being designated a Baby-Friendly birth facility, Memorial Hermann The Woodlands is also a certified Texas Ten Step Facility by the Texas Hospital Association and the Texas Department of State Health Services. The Ten Step program aims to assist a birth facility’s support of breastfeeding mothers before, during, and after delivery; encourages them to identify breastfeeding resources for the mother after she is discharged; and encourages facilities to have 82 percent of mothers exclusively breastfeeding when they go home with their newborn.

The latest Breastfeeding Report Card from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) revealed that 79.2 percent of infants in the United States are breastfed at some point. Although that is the highest rate since the report was first published in 2007, the Department of Health and Human Services Healthy People 2020 initiative has set its sights even higher in an effort to improve overall public health. By 2020, the campaign’s objective is to have 81.9 percent of infants breastfed at some point, and for 60.6 percent to continue breastfeeding through at least six months.

Young mother holding her newborn child. Mom nursing baby. Woman and new born boy relax in a white bedroom with rocking chair and blue crib. Nursery interior. Mother breast feeding baby. Family at home

Closing the Gap

According to the CDC’s report, 79 percent of newborn infants born in 2011 started to breastfeed but less than half were still breastfeeding at six months, and only 27 percent were still breastfeeding at 12 months.

The rate of moms that stop breastfeeding can be attributed to a number of factors, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Difficulties when first breastfeeding vary from couplet to couplet, but the separation of mother and baby, use of newborn nurseries, infant formula supplementation and mothers returning to work can disrupt or discourage breastfeeding.

“As a country, we’re slowly making strides,” Eckenrode says. “Families need to know that they do have support in doing this and there are resources  available to them. We are here to help any way we can.”

For more information on services or support available at Women’s Memorial Hermann Lactation Center, call 713.897.5832.

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Tashika Varma