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An effective way to reduce the risk of common childhood diseases

Dr. Amanda Gersich (left), a Ravenswood Family Network lactation

counselor, discusses breastfeeding with Maria.

Breastfeeding is one of the most important investments that parents can make in their infants’ health. Infants who are breastfed have a significantly reduced risk of common childhood diseases such as asthma, obesity, Type 1 diabetes, and ear infections. Additionally, breastfeeding offers benefits to mothers by helping to lower their risk for breast cancer, ovarian cancer, high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes. Beyond these health benefits, it is also estimated that low rates of breastfeeding add more than $3 billion a year to medical costs for the mother and child in the United States (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2022). Despite the significant benefits that breastfeeding offers, the rate of breastfeeding in the United States remains low. In fact, only one in four infants are breastfed for the recommended amount of time (National Immunization Survey, 2019). This rate is even lower for infants of women who are Black and Latino (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019). A number of factors contribute to this low rate, but chief among them are common nursing problems such as painful nipples, milk supply, and breastfeeding positions. A lactation consultant is a health professional who specializes in breastfeeding and can provide strategies to help alleviate the burden of such issues on new mothers and families. Lactation consultants undergo specialized training and certification to offer advice, guidance, and support to people who choose to breastfeed. At Ravenswood, we now have a formal lactation services program. We provide lactation consultations at our main health center in East Palo Alto, MayView Palo Alto clinic, and MayView Mountain View clinic. Expecting parents are now able to visit a lactation consultant at any point during their pregnancy to ease anxiety and fears around breastfeeding, receive guidance to make informed choices, and discuss their goals for feeding their baby. After the baby is born, lactation consultants support parents with latch, position, milk supply, engorgement, and more. To best serve all Ravenswood patients, services are offered in both Spanish and English. Additionally, our staff members are already (or are pending) International Board-Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC’s), which is considered the most well-known and renowned certification for lactation consultants (Cleveland Clinic, 2022).

Our Lactation Program Manager, Cheryl, looks forward to seeing the program continue to expand as more people become aware of the services. Cheryl says, “Many people assume that because breastfeeding is natural to mammals, it is easy. However, it is a dance between the breastfeeding parent and the baby that needs to be learned. Breastfeeding can be different with each child.” Ravenswood’s lactation program is growing quickly, in large part due to the strong support received from our Women’s Health, Pediatric, and Family Medicine departments that work closely with lactation to provide wrap-around care for our patients. Our overarching goal is to protect, promote, and support mothers who are breastfeeding so that all infants, families, and communities can receive the benefits that lactation counseling provides.

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