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Kitsap supports breastfeeding moms

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Posted September 10, 2018 | Beth Wilson

Kitsap supports breastfeeding moms

In the United States, we have laws in place that protect women’s rights to feed their children in public locations—not just the children who want a bottle or some snack crackers—those who breastfeed, too. If our kids are hungry, we feed them in the way that works best for us and for them.

You wouldn’t think this would be controversial, but many of us who breastfeed get a lot of negative feedback. People make faces, say rude things, and ask us to cover up, move somewhere else, or stop nursing. According to Washington law, those behaviors are illegal discrimination.

I came across my share of negativity, personally, during the nearly four years I nursed my kids in my home state of Oklahoma. There, like in Washington, the law says moms have the right to breastfeed in any public place. I did, but we used a blanket, or went to the bathroom, or even out to the car, so we wouldn’t stir up even more of the dirty looks and rude comments.

Jacquelyn Speare’s experience here in Bremerton has been a lot different. “I have nursed two of my own children, my oldest until he was two-and-a-half and my youngest is one-and-a-half and still nursing. The city of Bremerton in my experience has been a positive place to breastfeed. Personally, I have not experienced any negative reactions from people in public. I nurse on demand and do not use a cover.”

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Jacquelyn Speare nursing on the Ferry from Bremerton to Seattle - 2014.

Image by Katelyn Anderson, owner of Umber Heart Photography.

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Chelsea Pyper breastfeeding her son in 2007 in Chilgok, north of Daegu in South Korea.

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Chelsea Pyper's Mom breastfeeding her in 1978 in Bremerton.

When moms and babies have physical challenges

Although breastfeeding is natural, it isn’t necessarily easy. As Jacquelyn points out, “Breastfeeding is a skill Mama and Baby have to learn.”

La Leche League

Fortunately, the moms in the Kitsap Community have a wide range of resources. For example, when Jacquelyn was new at nursing, the La Leche League nursing group welcomed her and provided her with encouragement and assistance. Poulsbo, Bremerton, and Port Orchard all have LLL groups. These local chapters of the International organization provide peer support from moms who have breastfed and want to help other moms reach their breastfeeding goals. Volunteer leaders such as Katie Dunning, a well-known lactation consultant in our area, get the latest info and tools from LLL and are available to help others in person, via email, on the phone, and through social media. Nurturing Expressions also has a breastfeeding support group in Poulsbo.

A professional Nurse Lactation consultant specializes in helping moms through methods such as the following:

     - Weighing babies to evaluate milk transfer

     - Helping develop feeding plans

     - Answering questions about pumping

     - Identifying latch problems such as lip and tongue ties

Frenectomies

Speaking of lip and tongue ties…this issue happens when the  connection between the upper lip and the gums or the connection between the tongue and the floor of the mouth is too long. It prevents normal range of motion for the tongue and lip so that a baby can’t latch on correctly. Usually, this means the baby doesn’t get enough milk, and the mom experiences significant breast pain.

Jacquelyn explains that this problem can be easily corrected through a laser frenectomy performed by a doctor or dentist. “Dr. Banks at Kitsap Kids Dentistry does laser lip and tongue tie corrections on infants (and also all ages). She and her staff are awesome! Eliza had a lip and tongue tie and when she was two weeks old Dr. Banks did a lip and tongue tie correction, it made a world of difference in her ability to swallow milk without choking, and a proper latch told my body to increase my supply so I had enough milk for her.”

When moms need to pump breast milk

I was lucky enough to stay home with my daughter for most of her first year, which was also my first year of grad school. At first, I’d have to leave class to express milk by hand or with a manual pump to take care of the full, burning feeling of suddenly “letting down” with no baby nearby to relieve the pressure. Eventually, our feeding schedule took care of that issue.

Moms who only need to pump occasionally may want to purchase a single-user pump, either manual or motorized. There are also pumps designed to help establish a milk supply for moms who have babies under eight weeks old who can’t nurse yet because of illness, physical issues such as cleft palate that keep them from nursing, or are premature.

My daughter stopped nursing when I had my wisdom teeth removed and needed pain medication. She was just over two-and-a-half years old, so it was a good time for us to wean. However, moms who need medication can still breastfeed. Niki Coraggio, a midwife in this area, comes highly recommended as a resource for those who worry about medication and breastfeeding interactions. She can look at the research for you or refer you to someone who can advise you based on current data.

Pumping and employment

By the time my son was born, I had a full-time job as a librarian, so I planned to pump during the day and nurse at night. Breastfeeding USA explains that the type of pump you need depends on your situation. In my case, keeping up with my son’s appetite meant pumping three times a day. My 15-minute breaks weren’t long enough to do one side at a time, so I used an electric double pump. I had intended to pump for two years, per the World Health Organization’s recommendation.

My employer complied with the laws regarding pumping, allowing me to use the library’s catering kitchen where there was an electrical outlet, a sink to wash the pump’s tubes and other parts, a locked door for complete privacy, and a refrigerator to store the milk. Even though I had everything I needed, pumping didn’t keep up my supply the way nursing had. We started supplementing with formula at around eight months, and I got discouraged and gave up when my son was 15 months old.

Premature infants and breastmilk

The benefits of human milk for preemies are especially important. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, these include the following:

     - Improved brain development

     - Reduced chances of invasive infection during hospitalization

     - Fewer re-hospitalizations during the first 12 months

     - Lower blood pressure

     - Reduced rates of diabetes later in life

But what if the mom of a preemie can’t produce milk? She doesn’t have to immediately resort to formula. Jacquelyn is one of many breastfeeding moms in this community who have donated milk. There are also breastmilk banks, as well as breastmilk sharing groups, which can be found on Facebook.

Breastfeeding is hard work at a time when moms are already facing the physical, mental, and emotional challenges of taking care of an infant. Here in the Kitsap community, we have the assistance and answers moms need to make feeding their children the healthy bonding experience it should be.

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