In observance of World Breastfeeding Week, Pen Bay Healthcare’s Birth Center encourages mothers to learn more about breastfeeding and urges other members of the community to support families in their breastfeeding goals.

World Breastfeeding Week is a worldwide international event with breastfeeding advocates in more than 17 countries celebrating the 2014 theme: 'Breastfeeding: A Winning Goal – for Life!’

Experts say that breastfeeding protects infants against a higher risk of developing respiratory illnesses, infections, gastrointestinal diseases, diabetes, leukemia, obesity and some allergies. Additional research shows that breastfed babies are up to 50 percent less likely to die of sudden infant death syndrome, mostly because they wake up more at night. For a nursing mother, the benefits of breastfeeding decreases a mother’s risk of contracting uterine and ovarian cancer, and reduces the time taken off from work or spent at the doctor’s office with a sick child.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a baby should be exclusively breast fed for the first six months of its life and up to a year accompanied by foods. After that, whatever is mutually desirable for mother and baby is suggested.

Pen Bay Medical Center delivers approximately 300 babies each year. Childbirth and prenatal education classes are offered to parents for the birth experience, parenting support after birth and support for mothers in their breastfeeding goals through the Pen Bay Birth Center.

Lynn Tauss, one of Pen Bay’s six internationally board-certified lactation consultants, says the discussion about nursing starts early on in the pregnancy. “That's the time to ask mothers, ‘What have you heard about breastfeeding?’ If the mother has concerns, her questions can then be addressed,” Tauss said in a news release. Once the baby is born, the lactation consultants check in often with the mothers in their hospital rooms. There is also a postpartum clinic where mom and baby return a few days after being discharged. “When the babies are four or five days old, and mom’s milk is first coming in, things can be hard, and we want to help people through that point,” Tauss explained.

Lactation consultants also facilitate the Mother’s Milk Network support group, an informal format that provides group interaction and support for breastfeeding families or individual assistance when needed. For babies already delivered at Pen Bay, Nurture Me is a wellness course that provides information to maximize both the mother and baby’s health and adjustment to becoming a family.

Breastfeeding can be easy and natural, and other times it can be a struggle. “You need to be comfortable with how you feed your baby,” Tauss said. “What I tell moms at the end of every breastfeeding class is that after all this incredible, wonderful stuff about breastfeeding, it has to feel right in your heart."

For more information about childbirth services, breastfeeding or Pen Bay Birth Center classes and workshops, please call 596-8345.