Support for breast-feeding on rise in Gainesville and elsewhere

By on December 19th, 2012

Breast-feeding can be a daunting task for a new mother. Across the nation, groups like La Leche League are bringing women together to help each other on a peer-to-peer basis. They also assist mothers in finding answers to other questions about their babies.

La Leche League of Gainesville leader Kathy Lemons said being able to talk to other mothers can ease fears.

“The peer encouragement is really, really nice,” said Lemons. “We are not experts, but we have experience as leaders. Even other moms who come to the meetings offer their support.”

La Leche League holds monthly meetings that are open to the public, Lemons said.

Jessica Puentes is a full-time mother, certified lactation counselor and part-time student at the University of Florida.

When Puentes began breast-feeding, she said it was rough and painful. She said she saw three different lactation consultants in order to help her through it.

Puentes said her nurse tried to get her to supplement her milk with formula because she wasn’t producing enough.

For mothers who cannot produce enough milk on their own but do not want to give their babies formula, milk banks are available.

At the banks, donated breast milk is screened, tested and pasteurized before it is provided to mothers, Puentes said.

Another option for mothers who cannot produce enough milk is milk sharing. Sharing milk is the process of one mother giving her baby to another mother for feeding.

Groups like Human Milk 4 Human Babies match up mothers who are looking to milk share rather than get milk from a bank. These groups don’t screen and test their milk like banks do, but members may request blood work and tests from the donor mother.

According to Puentes, breast-feeding can reduce the risk of diabetes and heart problems in babies.

There are studies that show that mothers who breast-feed are less likely to have ovarian cancer, uterine cancer and breast cancer, Puentes said. Breast-feeding can also help bring the uterus back to its normal size after childbirth.

Lemons said La Leche League makes home visits upon request and mothers can always call leaders of the group if they need any help.

Now more than ever, mothers have access to breast-feeding help, whether it’s from a lactation counselor or an organization like La Leche Group.

With groups like this across the entire United States, mothers can find aid virtually anywhere.

Michelle Plitnikas wrote this story online.

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