Q&A: Benefits and Importance of Breastfeeding

By Dara Gray, M.A., L.C.S.W., ACCESS Maternal Child Health Program Manager
March 29, 2016

ACCESS, we agree. However, we know that when it comes to our moms and breastfeeding there are always a lot of questions. Dara Gray, ACCESS' maternal child health program manager, answers some of those questions here . 

 1. Why does ACCESS encourage breastfeeding? 

ACCESS believes that breast milk is the best for babies because it has all the nutritional components that are natural for babies.  

 2. What are the benefits of breastfeeding?

The bond shared by the baby and breastfeeding mother via skin-to-skin contact cannot be denied. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months after birth and breastfeeding with solid foods until at least age 1. Extended breastfeeding is recommended as long as mom and baby wish to continue. Benefits for women who breastfeed include:

  • Faster weight loss;
  • Less postpartum bleeding;
  • Increased feelings of calmness, self-esteem and confidence; and
  • Lower risks of breast, ovarian and uterine cancer. 

 3. Why is breastfeeding recommended before baby formula?

Breast milk boosts the baby's immune system, decreases the incidences of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and is always clean and at the right temperature. Other benefits that babies realize through breastfeeding include:

  • Fewer allergies and instances of childhood cancers;
  • Lower risk of juvenile diabetes;
  • Healthier jaw and tooth development; and
  • Less likelihood of obesity later in life. 

4. Are there foods that women should eat that will help increase their milk supply?  

ACCESS encourages patients to speak with a Certified Lactation Consultant to learn basic breastfeeding techniques and discuss concerns. Patients also can speak with their provider for information involving medical-related issues with breastfeeding. 

5. Breastfeeding can be difficult for some women. What support does ACCESS offer for women who want to breastfeed, but are struggling?   

ACCESS supports breastfeeding through our integrated care team that links new moms with valuable programs such as ACCESS' Westside Healthy Start, CenteringPregnancy®, and family case management services. ​

In addition, our Male Involvement program works with Healthy Start participants to engage their male partners in their health and the health of their children. The program teaches critical parenting and life skills, makes connections to health services and provides job training. Combined, these areas are key to sustaining a healthy family. 

ACCESS' Westside Healthy Start program is a national Healthy Start leader with a well-established model for integrating medical care, social supports and community action to improve birth outcomes and reduce infant mortality on Chicago's West Side. 

CenteringPregnancy® is an evidence-based model of group prenatal care, which has been shown to result in improved birth outcomes, including lower rates of preterm birth, low-birth rates and higher rates of breastfeeding among women of color.    

6. Many women find it difficult to work outside the home while continuing to breastfeed.  What does ACCESS recommend for women in this situation?  

ACCESS' Westside Healthy Start program and family case management team provide support to new moms who are planning to return to work and/or school by assisting with securing breast pumps, helping create schedules for feeding and pumping, and educating them on how to store milk, etc.   

7. Is exercise OK if you are breastfeeding?  

We promote healthy nutrition and exercise overall, but women should always check with their provider before proceeding with any exercise regimen. 

8. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports vast disparities between breastfeeding rates for white women versus those for women of color. Why do these racial disparities exist and are there other ways that ACCESS addresses these issues? ​

Only 52 percent of low-income African-American women in Illinois initiate breastfeeding, compared to 64 percent for low-income white women and 85 percent for Hispanic women.  

Many barriers to breastfeeding still exist. Some new mothers aren't aware of the rigorous discipline—whether with diet, abstaining from cigarette and alcohol use, or creating appropriate feeding and pumping schedules—that is required for healthy and successful breastfeeding. Programs that provide free formula are also attractive alternatives, as they are economic incentives against breastfeeding.  ​

Some of the key ways ACCESS provides support include prenatal education and "Best Start Three Step Counseling;" partnerships with hospitals that have been designated through the "Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative;" lactation support in the hospital at the time of delivery; and routine contact up to six months after birth for all Westside Healthy Start participants.  

ACCESS' team of Maternal Child Health professionals is ready to help and can connect you with the right resources. Click here to schedule an appointment.​​​​