August is National Breast-feeding Month, and Asheville abounds with breast-feeding services for new and expectant mothers. Kimberly Rush, an Asheville lactation consultant, mentions some of the many resources: “We have La Leche League, breast-feeding support groups and many other ways to support and provide information.” Cheryl Orengo, director and educator at Start from Seed, notes that Mission Hospital is designated as “baby-friendly,” which means that new moms don’t go home with formula; they all have a lactation consultant visit them after birth.
“Prevention is key,” says Jen Chandlee, lactation and childbirth educator at Homegrown Babies. “And prenatal breast-feeding education is one of the best things a woman can do to ensure breast-feeding success and prevent many of the challenges that can arise.”
“Breast-feeding is a preventive health care measure,” says Rush, who offers breast-feeding services to biological as well as adoptive mothers. Under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, women’s health, which includes breast-feeding, is considered preventive care, which makes it possible for lactation consultants like Rush to offer services that are covered by insurance.
“In my practice, I provide information and support feeding goals,” she says. “I see all the families within 24 hours of contact because I know they are struggling. Ideally, I like to make contact before conception to provide resources.”
Beyond the benefits for the baby, Chandlee says, breast-feeding can boost a new mother’s postpartum mood with supportive hormones and help establish early bonding. While research shows that breastfeeding is beneficial for both mother and baby, many women have difficulty with the process, and some need to bottle-feed instead.
In 2011 the surgeon general, Regina Benjamin, endorsed breast-feeding, citing its beneficial properties. She noted that breast milk “is a live substance with unparalleled immunological and anti-inflammatory properties that protect against a host of illnesses and diseases for both mothers and children.” Subsequently, August was declared National Breast-feeding Month by the U.S. Breast-feeding Committee.
In Asheville, women who do not breast-feed may encounter judgment by their peers, says Orengo. “Living in Asheville, it’s difficult for women who have had to stop breast-feeding,” she explains. “People look down on you if you are giving your baby a bottle, but in the group classes at Start From Seed, we are nonjudgmental. They are good moms; it doesn’t mean women are not if they are not breast-feeding.” Start from Seed offers a breastfeeding class taught by Chalayne Love, formerly an educator at Mission Hospital, who had experience breast-feeding twins.
Rush noted that a few weeks ago there was an issue in Hendersonville when a mother was breastfeeding her 8-month-old in the courtroom, and the judge asked her to leave.
To counter such bias against public breast-feeding, the Global Big Latch On, held at West Asheville Park on Aug. 6, drew new moms to breast-feed together and offer one another peer support.
Chandlee supports public breast-feeding as a way of changing behaviors. “For several generations, we rarely saw women breast-feeding,” she says. “It is imperative that we normalize it, as breast-feeding is a learned behavior for women, even though it is instinctive to babies. Seeing women breast-feeding in social settings encourages others to make the same choice and increases the chances of success.”
United States Breastfeeding Committee
Start From Seed
Surgeon General statement