HSHS St. John’s Hospital recognizes National Breastfeeding Month in August, World Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1-7, and the benefits of breastfeeding. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that breastfeeding is supposed to work almost like a newborn’s first vaccine, providing vital antibodies and an immunity boost through the mother’s milk.
“Breastfeeding, whether by the breast or pumping breast milk, is important to an infant as it provides protection against many illnesses, while also supporting bonding between the mother and baby,” said Jessica Elsila, critical care RN at St. John’s Women and Infants Center and manager of St. John’s First Steps support group, a breastfeeding support group for new mothers.
- Breast milk is liquid gold. Colostrum, known as liquid gold, is the thick yellow breast milk that mothers make during pregnancy and just after birth. This milk is very rich in nutrients and antibodies to protect your baby. Although your baby only gets a small amount of colostrum at each feeding, it matches the amount his or her stomach can hold.
- Breast milk changes as your baby grows. Colostrum changes into what is called mature milk. By the third to fifth day after birth, this mature breast milk has just the right amount of fat, sugar, water, and protein to help your baby continue to grow. It is a thinner type of milk than colostrum, but it provides all the nutrients and antibodies your baby needs.
- Breast milk is easier to digest. For most babies, especially premature babies, breast milk is easier to digest than formula. The proteins in formula are made from cow’s milk and it takes time for babies’ stomachs to adjust to digesting them.
- Breast milk fights disease. The cells, hormones, and antibodies in breast milk protect babies from illness such as ear infections, asthma and gastrointestinal infections, among others.
- Breastfeeding is beneficial to mothers as well. Mothers who breastfeed tend to, recover from childbirth faster, and are at a lower risk for developing breast and ovarian cancer.
For mothers needing additional support to be successful in their breastfeeding journey, St. John’s Hospital offers First Steps support group. Meetings are held every Wednesday from Noon – 1:30 p.m. in classroom B, located near the main lobby of the Women and Children’s Clinic at 400 N. 9th Street, Springfield, IL.
“It is an excellent opportunity for mothers to see how their infants are growing each week, meet other moms who are also breastfeeding and feel continuous support from lactation specialists throughout the various stages of breastfeeding,” said Jessica.
The group is open to mothers and infants being breast fed up to 1 year of age. There is no need to preregister. Siblings are currently not allowed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Mothers must wear masks as infants are unable to be vaccinated. For more information, call 217-535-3983.
Expectant mothers looking for a breastfeeding education class can visit https://www.hshs.org/StJohns/Events/Mother-Child. Breastfeeding and other prenatal classes are offered monthly. Preregistration is required, and classes are held at HSHS St. John’s Children’s Hospital. Masks are required, and one support person may accompany the mom-to-be.
For more information about breastfeeding, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/.