August is National Breastfeeding Month–and what better way to celebrate than by catching up with one of the best experts in the breastfeeding field about benefits, myths, and key info to know?
Gina Cicatelli Ciagne is a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC), Lansinoh’s Vice President of Integrated Marketing and Clinical Communications, and a mother of two breastfed children. She’s also a nationally recognized expert on breastfeeding, and has been an active advocate for breastfeeding and women’s health for more than a decade. As a Certified Lactation Counselor and La Leche League International-trained breastfeeding peer counselor, she has worked with and provided advice and support to thousands of breastfeeding mothers around the world. She is the mother of two breastfed children. Read on for her expert insight into some common breastfeeding questions!
What are the biggest benefits to breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding is more than a lifestyle choice — it is the ideal way to nurture and nourish your baby and has many benefits for you that last beyond the period of nursing. The first few weeks can be challenging, and sometimes new mothers give up before they, and their babies, can experience the benefits. Knowing the breastfeeding benefits can keep you motivated and increase your chances of success.
Breastmilk is more easily digested and provides the essential nutrients, vitamins, proteins, fats and antibodies, in just the right proportions that the baby needs to develop physically and neurologically; breastmilk will also change its composition to meet your baby’s needs as they get older or if your baby is sick; and breastmilk is made of live cells and is easily absorbed by your baby.
Additionally, breastfeeding decreases a mother’s risk of developing breast cancer. In addition, studies show that breastfeeding may decrease ovarian cancer and uterine cancer in women who breastfeed; breastfeeding mothers may have a lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes (researchers say breastfeeding may change a mother’s metabolism in ways that make the possible connection plausible); studies show that breastfeeding mothers show less postpartum depression than formula-feeding mothers because breastfeeding triggers and releases oxytocin (also called the “love hormone”) and prolactin that can help you relax and feel less stressed; and as a nursing mother, you will burn extra calories, making it easier to lose the pounds put on during pregnancy. Breastfeeding will help you get back to your pre-pregnancy weight faster.
What are some myths about breastfeeding that women should know are not true?
There are many myths associated with breastfeeding. One of these is that breastfeeding causes breasts to sag or lose their shape. As a matter of fact, according to research, it is the stretching of the ligaments caused by weight gain during pregnancy that can cause breasts to sag (also called Ptosis).
Another common myth is that breast size determines how much milk a mom will make and this is untrue. The size of her breasts does not impact her internal breastmilk storage capacity. So, a small-breasted woman can produce as much milk as her baby needs as can a larger breasted woman.
A third common myth is that feedings should be timed and baby’s breastfeeding sessions should be scheduled. These are untrue! It is important, for establishing and maintaining a good milk supply as well as nourishing your baby, that is fed “on demand” meaning baby is put to the breast when exhibiting hunger cues (smacking lips, sucking on fingers and hands, rooting) and allowed to feed as long as they wish without taking them off after a certain time period. Let baby nurse on one breast until they stop or unlatch themselves. They may take occasional pauses during a feed but that does not mean they are done. If they pause, see if they re-latch themselves or you can relatch baby if he is still hungry. Then offer the other breast but know it is okay for them to only feed on one breast at a session. This ensures that baby drains as much milk as possible because then the body refills the milk that has been removed (keeping up your supply based on baby’s needs!). Some babies are quick at nursing and others take longer. Also, don’t be strict about time in between feeds. Some go for an hour in between and others build up to feeding every three hours. Babies do tend to start to lengthen time between feedings as they get older but it is important for your comfort and for baby’s optimal growth and development to not be a strict scheduler, especially in the early days. Timing feedings and sticking to a strict schedule can affect baby’s weight gain, can cause engorgement, and can lead to low milk supply (if milk is not removed, your body will start to make less).
What are some reasons that you hear from women as to why they aren’t comfortable breastfeeding in public?
We have all seen media stories of moms who have been publicly shamed or ridiculed for breastfeeding their baby in public and that has made some worried about feeding their babies in public. Moms also worry that they will be seen as an exhibitionist if someone happens to see their breast if their baby unlatches while nursing in public.While breasts are designed for breastfeeding, not everyone understands that and forget that this is about nourishing a baby.
What are strategies that you’d recommend to help breastfeeding mothers feel more confident breastfeeding in public?
It is important to remember that breastfeeding is so beneficial for you and baby’s health and that there are laws that protect her right to breastfeed. Many moms take along a nursing shawl or cover up but many also find that baby has other plans and doesn’t like to be covered! That eye contact is so important during feedings too so many moms don’t want to cover up or feel ashamed for caring for their babies. Moms should feel comfortable wherever they nurse and remember that their focus should be on their baby and not these naysayers. There are also many establishments who will be accommodating and provide a private space for mom to nurse if she feels more comfortable nursing away from others.
Are there specific products you recommend to make breastfeeding easier (in public and private)?
Breastfeeding can come with some challenges but there are solutions. Since leaking is a common issue for many moms, having nursing pads with them so they can capture leaks if they let-down can also be reassuring. Having ultra-pure HPA Lanolin cream or Soothies Gel Pads can also be helpful particularly in the early days when moms are experiencing soreness. Therapearl Breast Therapy Packs are unique in that they provide hot or cold relief for engorgement, swelling, and plugged ducts, and can also aid in a faster let-down and more milk released when warmed and wrapped around a breast pump flange. For pumping moms, a high quality breast pump is important so they can keep up their milk supply and also have milk to leave behind for their babies when they will be apart. There are manual pumps for occasional use as well as double pumps available on the market. It is important to know that there are closed system pumps and open system pumps. Closed system pumps, like the Lansinoh SmartPump, ensure that no milk backs up into the tubing or the motor which can prevent mold and bacteria growth. The SmartPump is the first technologically advanced with Bluetooth connectivity double electric breast pump and connects to the Lansinoh Baby App so it records time and date and time spent pumping and has many sections moms can use to capture developmental and growth milestones. Moms can track and record information to share with their healthcare providers such as breastfeeding sessions, diaper changes and also access resources and articles on breastfeeding and pumping. Having safe breastmilk storage bags is key for moms who are pumping and storing their milk. Being able to pump directly in the bags is helpful for moms who don’t want to transfer the milk from a bottle to a bag before stashing it away. Choosing bags that are BPA and BPS- free and that have extra security measures like double zipper lock closures are also great to use.
What advice would you give to moms who are having a hard time getting their baby to breastfeed in a consistent way (or having trouble with latching, milk supply, and beyond)?
It is important to get help or assistance if a mom is encountering issues with breastfeeding such as worries about latching on or if they are worried about their supply. A small issue can turn into a big issue if not addressed and so many early challenges with breastfeeding can be remedied with some assistance. There are professionals whose purpose is to help breastfeeding moms and babies and it is important to know there is no need to suffer in silence! Reading ahead of time to know what to expect can be hugely helpful as well as going to credible sources for assistance with positioning, latching on and how to establish and maintain a good milk supply.
What should women know about the new CDC regulations for keeping pumps clean?
Pumping can be a cumbersome task for many moms but they do it because they will be apart from baby during feeding times and they need to maintain their milk supply and be able to leave expressed breastmilk for their baby’s caregiver to give in their absence. It is important to familiarize yourself with the new CDC guidelines on how to effectively clean your breast pump parts regularly to ensure that it is kept clean and sanitary so your expressed breastmilk is kept safe. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions for your pump on how to sanitize and clean the breast pump before using for the first time and after each use. It is also important to know that there are closed system breast pumps which prevent milk from getting sucked up into tubing and into the pump’s motor which are different than open system pumps which cannot prevent this type of milk back up. The backup is not only inconvenient but it can be a safety hazard as mold and bacteria can grow in a warm, moist environment like pump tubing and in small areas that cannot be cleaned or sanitized.
Gina Cicatelli Ciagne is a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC), Lansinoh’s Vice President of Integrated Marketing and Clinical Communications, and a Media Spokesperson. She is a nationally recognized expert on breastfeeding, and has been an active advocate for breastfeeding and women’s health for more than a decade. As a Certified Lactation Counselor and La Leche League International-trained breastfeeding peer counselor, she has worked with and provided advice and support to thousands of breastfeeding mothers around the world. She is the mother of two breastfed children.