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Healthy Living: Breastfeeding and Safe Sleep

August is recognized as National Breastfeeding Awareness month. In the latest episode of our Healthy Living series we learned about breastfeeding and safe sleep with expert, Samantha Staley from the Florida Health Department in Pinellas County.

Ms. Staley's insights are extremely helpful for new parents and caretakers at such a critical time in a child's life.

Why is breastfeeding important?

  • It reduces infant mortality, reduces Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) in premature infants, reduces the risk of SUIDS

  • Also protects against a lot of diseases, ear infections, eczema, asthma, obesity, leukemia, diarrhea and vomiting, etc

  • It helps advanced brain development

  • Reduced risk of ovarian and breast cancer for mom

  • The bonding between the mother and the baby is incredibly important for the social development of the child, and can give the child confidence and security.

How long do you recommend breastfeeding? Are there any benefits to extended breastfeeding?

  • American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding for at least 6 months and up 2 years.

  • As you introduce solids, it is recommended to continue breastfeeding for at least a year.

  • Any amount of breastmilk is going to be incredibly beneficial to a baby, so do what feels right for you.

What resources are available to mothers who need help breastfeeding, or are having issues producing enough milk?

  • For Pinellas County specifically: The Health Department has a breastfeeding hotline called the Warm Line, operated through WIC. You do not have to be participating in WIC to call the hotline for free.

  • You can get support, or a referral, by calling the Breastfeeding WARM line at - 727-824-6997; 7 days a week 9 am – 9 pm

  • If you are a client of WIC – mothers receive help with nutrition, access to a pump, & more in depth breastfeeding support

  • Other healthcare providers in Pinellas also offer support – from private lactation consultants, support groups like La Leche League, etc

  • All of the resources you can use are on this list here (you can download it!) –

What are some of the common myths about breastfeeding?

Myth #1: Milk Supply

  • Only 5% of women in the world cannot breastfeed due to milk supply issues.

  • They will need very little per feeding, more often for the first few days of life, which will basically be colostrum at first.

  • Producing milk is really about supply & demand – the more you do it, the more your body will produce. In the beginning of an infant’s life they need very little because they have very small stomachs.

  • Tip: If you have to miss a feeding make sure to express the milk to keep the supply up.

Myth #2: Diets

  • Women worry about their diets not being healthy enough for the baby. The baby will pull the nutrients it needs from the mother.

Myth #3: Medication

  • You should consult with your physician about any medication you take, as there are some medications you should not take while breastfeeding. However, there are a lot of medications that are perfectly safe. Check out the app LactMed.

Myth #4: Tobacco Smoking

  • The best thing you can do if you are a tobacco smoker is to breastfeed your baby. This will protect them because even if you are not smoking tobacco around them, they will be exposed to second or third hand smoke.

Myth #5: Baby refused the breast

  • It is incredibly rare that a baby under a year will self-wean. As a baby develops they become more curious and distracted, so even if they push away, they are not necessarily self-weaning. Try to illuminate distraction in a quiet, dark room, and when the baby is more willing (like when they are sleepy).

What are some of the basics for safe sleep for babies?

  • The way to prevent this is the ABC’s of safe sleep – ALONE, BACK, CRIB:

  • Always put babies to sleep alone on their back in an empty crib, bassinet or Pack ‘n Play.

  • Remove all items from crib (blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, bumpers, etc.) – use only a firm mattress with tight-fitting sheet.

  • Use a one-piece sleeper or sleep sack to keep baby warm.

  • Share a room, not a bed, for the first year of life..

  • Room-sharing offers benefit of having baby close by parents without the risks, so bring crib into parent’s room for baby’s first year.

  • Never put baby to sleep on soft surfaces like adult beds, couches, futons, recliners, air mattresses, etc.

  • Wearable blankets and swaddles are also good choices if needed, rather than using a loose blanket.

  • After the first year of age, you can introduce lovies.

What tips would you have for breastfeeding (or any) mothers who nurse their babies to sleep to ensure their babies are sleeping in the safest environment possible?

  • Bring the crib or bassinet as close as possible to the bed so you can easily access the baby.

  • Ask for partner support if possible.

  • Set an alarm and always return baby to crib after feeding.

  • A lot of mothers have strong feelings for why they co-sleep when they breastfeed, however the fact is something could happen and the risks are higher when you bed share.

Is there anything else you want to share with us about breastfeeding or safe sleep best practices?

  • Florida Healthy Babies Initiative is a statewide initiative that focuses on safe sleep & breastfeeding that has a lot of resources for mothers.

  • For example, there is a license to breastfeed card that mothers can have so that if they are in public breastfeeding, and anyone tells you that you should not be doing that, you can show them the card, and inform them that it is the law.

  • This initiative is also focusing on health disparities

  • If anyone watching wants to get involved:

  • You can advocate at your place of employment to have lactation rooms, or support programs, or if they know the state of Florida has an aware to be a breastfeeding friendly employer

  • Share this information with friends and family

  • Volunteer at the Tampa Bay Breastfeeding Taskforce. Go to their website for more information:

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