Breastfeeding? New mom? You need a lactation consultant — like, yesterday.
According to research pulled from two separate clinical trials, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, researchers have found that periodic meetings with a lactation consultant encourages women traditionally resistant to breastfeeding to do so. The results of the study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, found that when women were encouraged to nurse for at least a few months, they noticed the health benefits that coincide with breastfeeding.
In the first clinical trial, women who were regularly encouraged and given instructions and support for breastfeeding were found to be four times as likely to exclusively breastfeed their babies at one month and were also nearly three times more likely to continue doing so at three months. Formally, the AAP recommends that mothers exclusively breastfeed baby for the first six months after birth and continue to nurse for one year (or longer), as solids are introduced. But according to numbers pulled by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, less than 75 percent of infants are breastfed at all — and fewer than half are breastfed at six months.
Karen Bonuck, professor of family and social medicine at Einstein College, said, "The effects of the interventions in our trials — and our use of lactation consultants in particular — were more impressive than those reported by two recent reviews that evaluated the effects of the numerous previous trials aimed at improving breastfeeding rates.
For each of the clinical trials, Bonuck and her colleagues included younger, overweight, less-educated and Black/non-Hispanic women — and both groups tested the same interventions for effectiveness: Support from a lactation consultant that included two prenatal sessions and one postbirth hospital session, regular phone calls postpartum for three months (or until the mother was no longer breastfeeding) and the use of electronic prompts to remind physicians and midwives to discuss breastfeeding with women during five prenatal visits. Bonuck said, "Two-thirds of the women in the trials were either overweight or obese, which means they're not inclined to breastfeed. There are physical difficulties with the baby latching on, many of these women have difficulty producing enough milk and there may be psychological barriers as well. Yet we showed that support from a lactation consultant significantly improves their chances of breastfeeding for three months — sufficient time for mother and baby to obtain important health benefits."
In the BINGO trial (which consisted of 666 low-income women), women were randomly assigned to one of four different groups: Lactation Consultant alone, Lactation Consultant and Electronic Prompts, Electronic Prompts Alone and Usual Care (which was the control group). They were contacted by phone at one, three and six months postpartum to assess whether they were breastfeeding. They found that women in the first three groups (so, all but the control group) were more likely to initiate breastfeeding, have "any breastfeeding women at one month and were likely to breastfeed exclusively at three months postpartum.
In the PAIRINGS trial, researchers studied 275 economically diverse women, with many more of them planning to breastfeed exclusively. They were divided at random into two groups: a control and a group receiving both the lactation consultant and electronic prompt interventions. For the PAIRINGS, researchers wanted to know whether women were exclusively breastfeeding at three months — and what they found was that when they were compared to the control group, the intervention group was three times more likely to still be exclusively nursing at three months and six months.
Here's where it gets awesome: Dr. Bonuck revealed that at the conclusion of their trial, 95 percent of the women in the two trials at least initiated breastfeeding, which helps prove the point that earlier access to a lactation consultant is imperative in order to improve breastfeeding rates.
Do you think access to lactation consultants earlier in pregnancy would help more women be successful when breastfeeding?