Novant Health Healthy Headlines

Breastfeeding is one of the most common anxieties of early motherhood. It's also extremely beneficial for both mom and baby. In this episode of Latch On, a Novant Health pediatrician details all the ways breastfeeding benefits mothers. And it's a long list.

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Gina DiPietro 0:00
One of the most common anxieties of early motherhood is navigating the everyday difficulties of breastfeeding. Whether you're family planning or expanding your family, our experts are here to help. I'm Gina DiPietro, your host for Latch On: A Novant Health podcast series featuring breastfeeding content for women at all stages of their journey in motherhood. Novant Health is a Baby Friendly USA hospital where we consider breastfeeding to be the norm. Learn all about the benefits of breastfeeding both for mom and baby, skin-to-skin contact, how to pick up on hunger cues and navigate your postpartum experience, plus other expert advice. Stay tuned.

Gina DiPietro 0:43
Today I'm joined by Dr. Annie Condon, a pediatrician at Novant Health Pediatrics in Denver, North Carolina, and we'll be discussing what moms get out of breastfeeding. So Dr. Condon, thanks for joining us and if you could begin by just explaining some of the benefits to mom of breastfeeding.

Dr. Annie Condon 1:01
Thank you for having me. I am Annie Condon, and I'm a pediatrician. But I am also a fellow of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, which is a section from the American Academy of Pediatrics, to focus on the benefits of breastfeeding for both moms and babies. I think we as moms all kind of feel that pressure, especially with social media and other things to make that choice between breastfeeding, bottle feeding, formula feeding. So there's a lot of pressure out there for moms to kind of make that decision. I think a lot of moms lose perspective as far as the benefits for themselves. And they need to remember that self care is not selfish, and there are a lot of things that breastfeeding actually does that benefits moms. First off, when your baby is first born, and you start breastfeeding your infant, there's an immediate bond there. Babies need to have touch and smell and taste in order to interact with their environment and that's the only thing that moms can really do in the very beginning that is uniquely their own. Dads and other caregivers, of course, are very, very important, but breastfeeding is unique for moms in that they are providing health and nutrition for their infants. In the first couple of weeks of breastfeeding it's important to note that moms have significant decreased postpartum uterine bleeding, so they feel better faster, they're less anemic. They also have less menstrual blood loss when their periods do return if they do return. Oftentimes, when women are exclusively breastfeeding, their menstrual cycle does not return for several months, which I know for many women is a blessing. Also, there's evidence based medicine that shows that women who breastfeed are at decreased risk for breast cancer, ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, thyroid cancer, they have less high blood pressure, they have less Type 2 diabetes, and they're less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis. So it really is critical for moms to be educated by their OBs during their pregnancy as far as these benefits, both physical, mentally, and emotionally after the baby's born.

Gina DiPietro 3:23
That's pretty amazing to hear you go through just all of those things. I never would have imagined, as someone who is not a mother, that it really provides such a large number of benefits to mom.

Dr. Annie Condon 3:37
Oh, yeah, it's unbelievable. And when you think about all of the decrease in risks of cancer and other illnesses, it really is fascinating as far as the fact that the human body can do all these things, just from breastfeeding.

Gina DiPietro 3:52
What are some of the myths about breastfeeding that we can clear up? Common things that you hear from others that you would like to dispel

Dr. Annie Condon 4:01
First off, as a breastfeeding educator, a lot of moms come to me because they think that breastfeeding is hard. And for some moms, it can be. That's a truth. But for most moms, whether this is their first baby, whether they have large breasts, small breasts, whether they've had breast reduction surgery, they feel, and again, social media has told these moms, that breastfeeding is difficult, and it's hard, and it's exhausting. And I'm not saying that for some moms it isn't, but I think there is this perception amongst young moms. And most of us come from a generation of moms that didn't breastfeed. My mother was told that formula was better than her breast milk, and that was by her pediatrician. So I think that these new young moms kind of get mixed messages as far as whether or not they're going to be able to breastfeed. A lot of them feel like they can't breastfeed, and I think that's the biggest myth. About 90% of women can breastfeed. There's a very rare percentage of women who cannot breastfeed, either because of damage or trauma to the breasts, they sometimes have polycystic ovarian, those would be the women that have true reasons for not being able to breastfeed. And again, that's a very small minority of women. So first, I would try to empower women to know that this is something that you can do, and there are resources out there to help you. So that's one myth. The other myth, a lot of moms feel like, 'Oh, if I breastfeed, I'm going to lose all my baby weight. And I'm going to look amazing, and I'm gonna look incredible, just like those women in Hollywood.' Yes and no. I often tell my moms when they first come to see me in the office, I tell them nine months up, nine months down. You have to give yourself a realistic expectation of what weight loss is going to be after your baby is born. Now, that being said, breastfeeding does burn an extra 500 to 700 calories a day for most women. So yes, you will lose weight faster than a woman who chooses to formula feed her child, it's natural and it's easier for women who breastfeed because you are burning that extra 500 to 700 calories a day. That being said, that doesn't mean it's an excuse for you to eat Oreos, and ice cream, and everything else that you know, you think, Okay, I'm burning all these calories, I'm going to eat all this stuff. Remember that what you eat is what you're feeding your baby. And I don't know many moms that would feed their babies Oreos, so I would make sure to tell parents, yes, you will lose weight faster than a mom who typically formula feeds. However, it's still important, healthy eating, fruits and vegetables, light exercise, lots of water intake, and you can usually safely lose about one pound a week. Another myth is that breastfeeding should hurt. Very much not the case. And in the first couple of days, when you're in the hospital, you've just had a baby, you're exhausted, you're emotional, it's very, very difficult to learn how to breastfeed. Lactation consultants will come in and help you nurses will come in and help you, but if this is your first baby, this is something you have never done before. So you do need how to learn how to do it. In the same way that the first time you go to the gym, and you get on the treadmill, the next day, your muscles are going to be sore. And that's normal. And that's expected. No one goes to the gym for the first time in nine months and runs on, you know, a treadmill or goes on a stair machine or other things like that. And then the next day doesn't feel a little tired and a little sore. Learning how to breastfeed is the exact same way. So the first couple of days, you should be a little uncomfortable, you should be a little sore. But that's an expected effect of learning how to breastfeed. After that, however, after say about the first couple of days, and I usually tell moms, that by about day seven to 14, it should not hurt. And if it does hurt and it is uncomfortable for you the baby's latch needs to be assessed by either their pediatrician or a lactation consultant. Because if the discomfort continues the same way again, if you were on that treadmill and you were still having pain in your knee or in your calf, you should go see your orthopedist or your sports medicine physician. If you're still having pain in breastfeeding after the first couple of days or so, you should go see a health care professional to make sure that it's going well.

Gina DiPietro 8:42
Good to know, and I'd like to go back to one other point that you made that I really liked. You said that, you know moms shouldn't put too much pressure on themselves to lose that baby weight. I think you said something like nine months to nine months. I think I really liked that point of kind of giving yourself a little bit of grace.

Dr. Annie Condon 9:02
Absolutely. I think that, you know, a lot of moms see magazine covers or Instagram posts of different celebrities after they've had their baby and they have their pre baby body back. We have to remember that those are women that have personal trainers who come in, they have personal chefs who come in. They have nannies and assistants and all these other people who are doing other things for them. Most real moms have laundry and visitors and all sorts of other things that are happening in their life while they're trying to breastfeed a baby, they're trying to heal from the delivery of that baby, whether it be vaginal or C section. So it's very important for women to kind of understand that real moms don't have to wear makeup and real moms don't have to look amazing in a bikini in order to be an amazing mom, if you are breastfeeding, you are doing the best possible thing that you can do for your baby's health and development, and that in and of itself makes those moms a superhero.

Gina DiPietro 10:11
Is there anything else that you would add?

Dr. Annie Condon 10:13
So one of the questions I get asked often is whether or not moms are allowed or permitted to breastfeed in public. A lot of moms feel very uncomfortable about it. At least here in the state of North Carolina and most states in the United States, there are laws permitting women to breastfeed in public. So whether or not you choose to breastfeed in public really should be the mother's choice, not the person next to you on the park bench staring at you, not your mother in law, it should be a mother's choice, just like it's a mother's choice to breastfeed. So if you feel like you wish to breastfeed in public, no one would look at you funny if you were bottle feeding your baby in public. Breastfeeding is super important. It's the best way to feed your child. It should be more naturalized. Breastfeeding can help release oxytocin and prolactin hormones which helps to reduce stress, gives a positive feeling in mom, decrease anxiety, improve negative moods, and only a mom can do that. Anyone can bottle feed their baby, but breastfeeding is very unique and I hope that moms have the confidence that caring and feeding their child is the most important thing that they can do and to help empower them.

Gina DiPietro 11:40
Thank you for listening to this episode of Latch On, a breastfeeding podcast series under Novant Health Healthy Headlines. Find lots of other episodes under the Healthy Headlines channel ... everything from flu season to COVID-19, mental health advice and other great resources to keep you and your family healthy. We're on Apple, Google, Spotify or anywhere you listen to podcasts. I'm Gina DiPietro, your host, and we hope to see you back here real soon.