More Iowa women are breastfeeding their newborns

More than three-quarters of Iowa mothers are breastfeeding their newborns at the time of discharge from the hospital, according to the latest figures released by the Iowa Department of Public Health. A chart near the bottom of this page shows data compiled through the Iowa Newborn Metabolic Screening Profile Feeding Report since 2000. Statewide, about 63 percent of newborns were receiving some breast milk in the year 2000, but by 2013 the rate had risen to 77.7 percent. This chart shows the breastfeeding incidence for about two-thirds of Iowa counties between 2006 and 2013. (Counties with fewer than 20 recorded births per year were not included in the analysis.) Almost every county saw the breastfeeding rate increase during that period, but there was wide variation among counties. Howard County in northern Iowa started out above the statewide average in 2006 and had the highest breastfeeding rate in 2013 at 95.2 percent. Nearby Chickasaw County had the lowest rate at 54.5 percent and is one of the few Iowa counties where the newborn breastfeeding rate has declined in recent years.

Small changes in hospital policies can make a big difference in breastfeeding rates. This slide show created by Dr. Nils Bergman discusses how skin to skin contact in the first hours after birth promotes more breastfeeding. Toward the middle of the presentation, he discusses a study at one California hospital, where an hour of skin to skin time for babies in the first three hours of life dramatically increased the percentage of mothers who were breastfeeding at the time of hospital discharge.

The new Iowa statistics only reflect the percentage of babies receiving some breast milk in the hospital. For many women, the most difficult period for breastfeeding is the week or two after bringing baby home. (That was my experience.) In-person help from certified lactation consultants or accredited volunteer breastfeeding educators can be crucial. Sometimes a small change in how a woman holds her baby or her breast can make a huge difference in baby’s ability to transfer milk. Free breastfeeding support is available through Iowa chapters of La Leche League and Breastfeeding USA. After the jump I’ve posted information about other free breastfeeding resources for Iowa mothers.

Knowing what to expect during the early weeks of breastfeeding is critical. It’s typical for newborns to nurse every hour or two around the clock, or to go through a period of “cluster feeding” for a few hours each day. In our culture, many women wrongly interpret those and other normal behaviors as a sign that they are not making enough milk. Again, seeking advice in person or over the phone can be helpful. Good online sources for breastfeeding information, including trouble-shooting, include Kellymom, La Leche League, and Breastfeeding, Inc. Among the many good books that have been published about breastfeeding, the best short read in my opinion is Breastfeeding Made Simple by Nancy Mohrbacher and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett. The best book for trouble-shooting is The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers by Dr. Jack Newman and Teresa Pitman. The best overview of typical breastfeeding behavior is The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, published by La Leche League International.  

Information on breastfeeding support through the Women, Infants and Children program (WIC):

WIC Peer Counselors are paraprofessional women, who have successfully breastfed despite barriers and challenges, and are enthusiastic about sharing their breastfeeding experience and knowledge with women of their culture and language. Peer counselors work closely with WIC and healthcare providers to promote breastfeeding in their communities.

The use of breastfeeding peer counselors adds valuable to WIC’s efforts to help women initiate and continue breastfeeding. WIC breastfeeding peer counselors provide a valuable service to their communities, addressing the barriers to breastfeeding by offering breastfeeding education, support, and role modeling. Peer counselors are familiar with the resources available to WIC clients, are familiar with the questions a breastfeeding mother may ask, and recognize when to refer mothers to other resources during critical periods when mothers may experience difficulty.

Currently seven of the 20 WIC Program Agencies in Iowa offer Peer Counselor services; Edgerton Women’s Health Center in Davenport, MATURA Action Corporation in Creston, Mid-Iowa Community Action in Marshalltown and Ames, Operation Threshold in Waterloo, Siouxland WIC in Sioux City, Johnson County Public Health in Iowa City, and Pottawattamie County WIC in Council Bluffs. There are 28 trained Peer Counselors in these seven agencies serving approximately 1,400 pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.

Peer Counselors are effective in promoting and sustaining breastfeeding among WIC mothers.

Free breastfeeding support meetings in the Des Moines metro area:

La Leche League:

 * The first Thursday of the month at 10:00 am-11:30am, at WDM United Methodist Church, 720 Grand Avenue in West Des Moines (meet in the nursery on the second floor)

 * The third Friday of the month at 9:30am-10:30am at the Des Moines Social Club at 900 Mulberry, in the old firehouse downtown.

Certified Lactation Educator Char Wade has drop-in hours Wednesday from 10:30-11:30 am and on Thursday from 12:30 to 2:00 pm at 733 19th St in Des Moines, upstairs in the Village Learning Centre.

Mercy Hospital: 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month from 11:00 am to noon in the East Tower

Methodist West Hospital: 5th Floor: Every Wednesday at 6:00 pm

Lutheran Hospital: Every Wednesday, 1:00 to 2:00 pm

Basking Babies ( Angela Swieter is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, RN, educator and doula. She has a free meeting on the last Wednesday of each month from 12:30pm to 2pm at the Altoona Public Library.

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