Your Maternity Journey Vol. 8

Breastfeeding for a Great Beginning

Breastfeeding has many benefits for both mother and baby, and breast milk is the “gold standard” of infant nutrition. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months of a baby’s life, with breastfeeding supplemented by appropriate food for the next six months. At MarinHealth Medical Center, 99% of new moms choose to breastfeed “so they can enjoy” the multitude of benefits it provides to both mom and baby:

  • Breast milk provides balanced nutrition and includes maternal antibodies that strengthen the baby’s immune system and help protect against illnesses and infections.
  • Breastfeeding is a great way for mothers to bond with and nurture their babies.
  • Mothers who breastfeed are often happier and more productive, take fewer sick days if returning to work, and have some added protections against breast and ovarian cancer, anemia, and osteoporosis. Plus, many mothers find it can help them lose pregnancy weight.

Since 2017, MarinHealth Medical Center has been designated as a Baby-Friendly Hospital, which reflects our commitment to educate, care for, and support new mothers as they begin breastfeeding. This is more than a philosophy of care: it’s a designation that must be earned. Sponsored by the United Nations International Children’s Fund and the World Health Organization, the international Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative recognizes hospitals and birth centers that offer an optimal level of care for infant feeding. Out of more than 6000 US hospitals and birth centers, just over 400 hold Baby-Friendly status. We’re proud to be among this elite group and to have policies in place to ensure that mothers and babies have the healthiest start possible.

The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative established the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding as criteria for designation:

  1. Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff
  2. Provide training on the skills necessary to implement this policy
  3. Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding
  4. Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth
  5. Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation, even if they are separated from their infants
  6. Give infants no food or drink other than breast milk, unless medically indicated
  7. Practice “rooming-in,” which allows mothers and infants to remain together 24-hours a day
  8. Encourage breastfeeding on demand
  9. Give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants
  10. Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them upon discharge

To qualify for the prestigious Baby Friendly accreditation, we trained our staff to implement and promote our breastfeeding policy using the latest evidence-based data. We delay bathing for 12 hours because babies don’t regulate their body temperature well at birth and are subject to stress from cold. Instead of immediate bathing, our newborns are gently wiped down and placed on their mother’s breast for “skin to skin bonding.” The practice encourages nursing, helps mother and baby bond, keeps the baby warm, regulates the newborn’s blood sugar, and stimulates milk production. We also delay weighing, measuring, and the administration of Vitamin K and eye ointment for an hour.

To help mother and baby adjust to breastfeeding, we practice “rooming-in.” Mothers and infants remain together 24 hours a day, and babies can be fed on demand. Our specially trained nurses work with our new moms to initiate breastfeeding within the first hour after birth. We also teach mothers how to pump and maintain lactation when they are away from their babies. Before we discharge every new mom, we provide referrals to breastfeeding support groups.

Learn more about the benefits of breastfeeding and how a Baby-Friendly hospital can help you get started and have a positive experience after giving birth by listening to this short podcast.


It Takes a Village: Resources and Tips for Breastfeeding Success

Breastfeeding is a beautiful and natural experience that’s as old as time, but that doesn’t mean it always comes easy. The first few feedings may be challenging, but our team will guide you every step of the way, from holding the baby correctly to helping them latch.

Once you are out of the hospital and home on your own, what can you do to make breastfeeding an easier and better experience for both you and your baby? These tips may help:

  • Create a comfortable space just for breastfeeding. A rocking chair with plenty of pillows and support is ideal. Set up a small table to hold burp cloths, nursing pads, snacks, water, reading material, your phone, and anything else you might need easy access to.
  • Wear comfy clothes. It’s not necessary to have an entire “nursing wardrobe,” but clothes that can be easily unbuttoned or soft shirts that can easily be pulled up can make it easy for both you and the baby.
  • Let your baby set the schedule. Newborns tend to eat every few hours, but don’t be alarmed if your baby shows signs of hunger a little outside of that range. Opening and closing their mouth, making sucking noises or motions, turning inward in search of a breast, drooling, being restless or fidgety, and crying or whimpering can all signal your baby is ready to feed. In just a few days, you’ll quickly learn how to tell when your baby is hungry.
  • Nurse baby on one side until your breast feels soft or no longer full. Then take a break to burp the baby and try to feed from the other breast. If the baby doesn’t show any interest or latch on, they are probably satisfied. Start your next feeding with the full breast.
  • Treat your nipples gently. Pat your nipples dry after feeding, and change pads if you leak milk between feedings to help avoid irritation. Avoid washing your nipples with harsh soaps. Sore nipples can be soothed by using pure lanolin, but if you have a lot of pain with breastfeeding, work with a lactation consultant to help ensure that breastfeeding is as comfortable as possible.
  • Try not to stress about the frequency of feedings or the length of each one. Remember that each baby has a unique schedule, and as long as they are growing and meeting milestones at each check-up, you’re probably doing just fine.
  • Don’t give up—get help. Some women need extra help getting off to a good start in the early weeks. If you have questions or concerns about breastfeeding after you leave the hospital, call MarinHealth’s Lactation Center at 1-415-925-7522 or talk to your doctor. Lactation specialists can offer advice, modifications, and solutions to ensure you can continue to breastfeed your baby and protect both your health and theirs.
  • Get ongoing, weekly support from other new mothers. MarinHealth offers a free, virtual, weekly support group for new mothers. This group is an ideal forum for discussing breastfeeding, newborn care, and general parenting questions, and sharing the joys and concerns of parenthood with a group of people having similar experiences. Learn more.