When her fourth child, Synoloa, was delivered five weeks early by emergency cesarean, Holly Paz worried she might not be able to nurse. Her three previous children had presented breastfeeding difficulties including, among other challenges, one child with a double palate.
Synoloa’s time in the neonatal intensive care unit weakened Paz’s plan to breastfeed her newborn. And this time she also was recovering from major surgery. “I couldn’t imagine how I would do it with all these staples in me,” she said.
But when Paz got home with her new baby, she couldn’t imagine denying her daughter the lifeline she had given freely three times before. “How could I not give her the same benefit?” Paz said.
Now three months old and thriving, Synoloa is nursing expertly, despite being born with a lip and tongue tie.
Paz, who recently moved to Spring Hill from Boston, found a breastfeeding support group that meets Thursday evenings at Bayfront Health Spring Hill. Through the group, women like Paz get the support they need to make informed nutritional decisions for their babies.
The sessions also provide important networking among mothers who have persevered to continue breastfeeding despite the challenges.
Breastfeeding support, before and after delivery, is a major factor in breastfeeding success. While the act is as natural as giving birth, Women, Infants and Children (WIC) peer counselors and certified lactation counselors Shanna Reynolds, Amy Fritsch and Jennie Rae Lanziero admitted hurdles are common.
The women coached and counseled hundreds of new mothers through WIC, a food and nutrition program through the Florida Department of Health. One of the main goals of WIC is to provide education and support for breastfeeding moms.
But they felt they could do more if they could reach out to all expecting and new mothers, not just those who utilized WIC. So they joined forces with Mary Becker, an international board-certified lactation consultant, obtained their own training and certifications, and opened Total Lactation Care (TLC), a private lactation consulting business. Through TLC, all women in the community have access to information to help them make informed nutritional decisions for their babies.
TLC is grounded in the belief that human milk has superior nutritional value for babies. The women cite facts showing that mothers, too, benefit with fewer cases of breast and ovarian cancers, faster post-baby weight loss and fewer missed days from work.
But to receive those benefits, pregnant and new moms need to be educated about breastfeeding techniques, how to avoid common roadblocks to success and where to turn if problems arise.
TLC offers lactation counseling and support in the hospital, at the Enrichment Center at Bayfront Health Spring Hill, and through private classes or consultations.
The main mission is to provide “evidence-based lactation information and breastfeeding support to mothers, families, health care professionals and the general public.” TLC also strives for that goal by offering classes, support groups and one-on-one consultations.
One of TLC’s core beliefs is that successful breastfeeding begins with knowledge imparted during pregnancy. New moms should receive as much information as possible about the values of breast milk vs. chemical formulas so they can make informed decisions.
“Every pediatrician in this county wants moms to breastfeed,” said Reynolds, “because they know it is the healthiest option.” And most mothers, if given the evidence-based information, choose to nurse.
But problems can begin as early as the first feeding after a baby’s delivery if certain techniques are not followed.
Babies naturally want to nurse from their mother’s breast. TLC recommends immediate skin-to-skin contact with mother and newborn for as long as it takes for the baby to nurse. “It might be five minutes; it might take an hour,” Reynolds said.
Latching is also a very important part of successful breastfeeding. Reynolds, Fritsch, Lanziero and Becker go into the hospital and offer to observe and assist if the baby’s latch isn’t correct. They also counsel and guide new moms whose babies were given bottles in the neonatal intensive care unit.
TLC is available to observe a new mom and her baby, to address obstacles to nursing and to provide the encouragement moms need to continue, if they wish.
Successful breastfeeding for as long as possible produces healthier babies, fewer ear infections, fewer trips to doctors and a healthier society, its advocates say. While the TLC women cannot offer medical advice, they can refer moms to information showing that leading medical institutions favor breastfeeding.
Lanziero, Reynolds, Fritsch and Becker have children who were exclusively breastfed. They are well-versed advocates of the superior nutritional values of breast milk, the positive health benefits to moms and society’s slow but steady acceptance of breastfeeding as the best form of nutrition for babies.
Through TLC, the women are educating pregnant and new mothers about benefits of breastfeeding and helping to ensure those who choose to breastfeed have access to support.
Total Lactation Care is a locally based service that draws clients from throughout Florida. Still fairly new, the company encourages potential clients to find them on Facebook at tlctotallactationcare and join their Facebook support group at Breast Friends for support, information and assistance in all areas of breastfeeding and healthy babies.