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Breastfeeding the Healthy Newborn. Linda C. Pugh, PhD, RNC, FAAN Diane L. Spatz, PhD, RNC. History of Breastfeeding. Women have breastfed for hundreds of years. Breastfeeding lost favor in the 20 th century for economic and societal reasons, including the introduction of formula.

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Breastfeeding the healthy newborn l.jpg

Breastfeeding the Healthy Newborn

Linda C. Pugh, PhD, RNC, FAAN

Diane L. Spatz, PhD, RNC

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History of Breastfeeding

  • Women have breastfed for hundreds of years.

  • Breastfeeding lost favor in the 20th century for economic and societal reasons, including the introduction of formula.

  • The body of literature supporting breast-feeding has grown during the past few decades.

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Position Statements and Clinical Guidelines

  • Breastfeeding goals from Healthy People 2000 and Healthy People 2010 remain unmet.

  • Only 51 U.S. hospitals are designated as “baby-friendly” by the WHO Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) (BFHI, 2006).

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Position Statements and Clinical Guidelines(Continued)

  • AAP recommends that every woman breastfeed exclusively for 6 months, continuing for at least 12 months and then for as long as the mother deems it to be mutually beneficial (Gartner et al., 2005).

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10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding(BFHI, 2006)

  • Routinely communicate a written policy.

  • Train all staff to implement this policy.

  • Inform all pregnant woman about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.

  • Help initiate breastfeeding within 30 minutes of birth.

  • Show mothers how to breastfeed.

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10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding(BFHI, 2006) (Continued)

  • Feed newborns breastmilk only, unless medically indicated.

  • Practice rooming-in.

  • Encourage breastfeeding on demand.

  • Give no artificial teats or pacifiers.

  • Foster breastfeeding support groups and refer moms to them.

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Who Breastfeeds?

  • Breastfeeding rates in the U.S. vary by race, geography, maternal age and income.

  • In 2005, 72.9% of U.S. mothers breastfed, 39.1% breastfed at 6 months and 13.9% exclusively breastfed at 6 months (CDC, 2006).

  • The U.S. is far behind other countries in embracing breastfeeding.

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Women at Risk for Not Breastfeeding

  • African-Americans

  • Adolescents

  • Women with low income

  • Mothers of LBW infants

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Science of Human Milk and Lactation

  • Human milk is species-specific; it is made for human babies.

  • Infant formula is made from cow’s milk or soybeans and must be formulated and adapted for human babies.

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Benefits for Infants and Children

  • Breastmilk:

    • Reduces postneonatal mortality rates by 21% (Chen & Rogan, 2004)

    • Contains antibodies that protect infants against infection

    • Digests more easily than formula

    • May protect against diseases in later life

  • Breastfeeding facilitates maternal-infant attachment.

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Benefits for Mothers

  • May reduce the risk for breast cancer(Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer, 2002; Jernstrom et al., 2004; Lee, Kim, Kim, Song & Yoon, 2003; Martin, Middleton, Gunnell, Owen & Smith, 2005; Newcomb et al., 1994)

  • May reduce the risk for uterine and ovarian cancers (Labbok, 2001)

  • Decreases postpartum bleeding and helps speed the uterus to a nonpregnant state(Gartner et al., 2005)

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Benefits for Mothers (Continued)

  • Facilitates postpartum weight loss

  • May reduce the risk for postmenopausal osteoporosis and hip fracture (Cumming & Klineberg, 1993; Paton et al., 2003)

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Benefits for the Family and Society

  • Breastmilk is less expensive than formula.

  • Breastfed infants have fewer illnesses than formula-fed infants, resulting in less burden on the health care system.

  • Annual health care costs in the U.S. could be reduced by $3.6 billion if infants were breastfed(Ball & Wright, 1999).

  • Breastmilk is environmentally friendly.

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Anatomy and Physiology of Lactation

  • Understanding the anatomy and physiology of lactation can help nurses relate information to families in ways they can understand and prevent practices that interfere with the normal physiologic process of milk production.

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Anatomy and Physiology of Lactation(Continued)

  • Physiology of breast development

    • Breast development begins in utero.

    • Maturity begins in puberty through the influence of estrogen and progesterone.

    • Final maturation occurs during pregnancy and lactation when early breastmilk, known as colostrum or premilk, and hormones are secreted.

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Anatomy and Physiology of Lactation (Continued)

  • Anatomy and assessment of the breast

    • Areola color, size, and shape

    • Tubercles of Montgomery prominence

    • Nipple protractility

    • Breast size, shape, and symmetry

    • History of breast surgery, biopsy or cancer

    • Milk storage capacity

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Supporting the Breastfeeding Dyad

  • Nurses play an important role in helping women breastfeed.

  • A key goal is to help prolong the exclusivity of breastfeeding to 6 months and the duration of breastfeeding to at least 1 year (Gartner et al., 2005).

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Assessing the Individual’s Breastfeeding Culture

  • Few nurses take the time to reflect on their own breastfeeding culture or to fairly assess the breastfeeding culture of women they care for.

  • A health care provider’s own beliefs, experiences and culture can interfere with the ability to provide breastfeeding support, care and assessment.

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Assessing the Individual’s Breastfeeding Culture (Continued)

  • Breastfeeding Cultural Assessment

    • Exposure to breastfeeding

    • Knowledge of breastfeeding

    • Childbirth beliefs

    • Confidence vs. fear

    • Infant care beliefs

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The Breastfeeding Dyad: Preconception

  • Few women receive preconception counseling about breastfeeding.

  • Nurses should promote breastfeeding before women become pregnant.

  • Understanding the goals of breastfeeding before delivery may make the transition to breastfeeding easier.

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The Breastfeeding Dyad: Antepartum

  • Teach the science and benefits of breastfeeding at each prenatal visit.

  • Provide printed materials.

  • Consistently deliver the message to begin breastfeeding within 30 minutes of delivery and breastfeed every 2 to 3 hours.

  • Introduce positioning and latch-on.

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  • Ensure comfort and alignment with each position.

  • Demonstrate the most effective holds:

    • Cross cradle hold

    • Football hold

    • Side-lying position

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  • Cross cradle hold

  • Jackson-Malik, 2005. Reprinted with permission

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  • Football hold

  • Jackson-Malik, 2005. Reprinted with permission

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Positioning (Continued)

  • Side-lying position

  • Jackson-Malik, 2005. Reprinted with permission

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  • The latch is the key to successful breastfeeding. To ensure an appropriate latch:

    • The mother waits for an open mouth and moves her infant to her breast.

    • The newborn grasps most or all of the areola in his mouth.

    • The infant’s nose and chin touch the breast.

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The Breastfeeding Dyad: Intrapartum

  • More than 70% of women receive pain medication during labor (Riordan et al., 2000).

  • Medication may influence infant feeding behaviors.

  • Knowing the half-lives of analgesics is important in selecting the best pain-relief option.

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The Breastfeeding Dyad: Postpartum

  • Nurses should encourage:

    • Immediate skin-to-skin contact

    • Initiation of breastfeeding within 30 minutes postbirth

    • Breastfeeding 8 to 12 times per 24 hours while in the hospital

    • Rooming-in

    • Documentation of feedings and output

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Special Conditions: Hyperbilirubinemia

  • Hyperbilirubinemia is an excessive amount of bilirubin in the neonate’s blood (Gartner & Herschel, 2001).

  • Jaundice may be visible in light-skinned infants when bilirubin reaches 5 mg/dL.

  • Severe hyperbilirubinemia occurs when bilirubin is above 15 mg/dL.

  • To decrease jaundice, encourage early and frequent breastfeeding.

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Special Conditions: Dehydration

  • Frequent breastfeeding provides adequate fluid intake for infants.

  • Factors that may place the infant at risk for dehydration may be maternal (first lactation experience, unsuccessful prior breastfeeding) or infant (excessive passivity, inconsolable crying).

  • Nurses can help parents understand the importance of frequent feedings.

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Special Conditions: Weight Gain

  • Infants lose 5% to 10% of their birthweight within the first few days of life and regain it by the end of their second week of life.

  • Infants should double their birthweight by 6 months and triple it in 1 year.

  • Nurses can use test weights if there is a weight-gain concern.

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Slow Weight Gain


Consistent weight gain

Good muscle tone

Breastfeeding at least eight times per day

Normal output for age

Failure to Thrive


Irregular weight gain/ loss

Poor muscle tone

Breastfeeding fewer than eight times a day

Strong, dark urine

Special Conditions: Weight Gain(Continued)

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Special Conditions: Other Issues

  • Insufficient milk supply

  • Engorgement

  • Fatigue

  • Nipple pain and infection

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Maternal Nutrition(USDA, 2005a)

  • Moderate weight reduction is safe and does not compromise weight gain of the nursing infant.

  • Neither acute nor regular exercise adversely affects the mother’s ability to successfully breastfeed.

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Maternal Nutrition(Continued)

  • Nutritional needs of breastfeeding women:

    • Caloric intake consisting of 55% carbohydrates, 15% protein and not less than 30% fats

    • An additional 500 calories each day

    • An additional 400 mg of calcium

    • Prenatal vitamins

    • Nutrient-dense foods

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Maternal Nutrition(Continued)

  • Vitamin needs of breastfeeding women:

    • Vitamin B complex—Pork, eggs, cereal, bran

    • Vitamin C—Citrus fruits, leafy green vegetables

    • Vitamin A—Leafy green vegetables, dark yellow vegetables and fruits

    • Vitamin D—200-IU infant drops daily

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Maternal Nutrition(Continued)

  • Additional dietary considerations:

    • Fluid intake—Drink to thirst; urine should be pale and straw-colored.

    • Fish—Is safe to eat up to 12 ounces a week of fish low in mercury (U.S. DHHS, 2004).

    • Alcohol—Limit intake and avoid for 2 hours before breastfeeding.

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  • Few drugs are contraindicated for breastfeeding.

  • Nurses should use reliable sources to find accurate information about the transfer of a drug into human milk.

  • Potential transfer is greatest during the first 4 days after birth.

  • Exposure to the drug is dependent on the age, weight and maturity of the infant.

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Maternal and Infant Separation

  • Hospitalization of the mother

    • Make arrangements for breastfeeding whenever possible.

    • If the infant is not available to the mother:

      • Secure a hospital-grade electric pump to maintain milk supply.

      • Teach manual- and hand-pump expression.

      • Encourage frequent pumping.

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Maternal and Infant Separation (Continued)

  • 10 Steps for Promoting and Protecting Breastfeeding in Vulnerable Infants (Spatz, 2004)

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Technology Support: Nipple Shields

  • Can improve milk transfer and breastfeeding duration (Meier et al., 2000)

  • Helpful with flat or inverted nipples

  • Can help preterm infants maintain latch and increase sucking frequency

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Technology Support: Pumping

  • Breast pumps are hospital- or nonhospital-grade, electric or manual, single or double.

  • Breast pump manufacturing is not regulated.

  • Pumping should occur at the same regularity as breastfeeding directly.

  • Establishing the milk supply by breastfeeding directly for at least 3 weeks enhances the ability to pump.

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10 Tips for Long-term Pumping(Smith, 1998)

  • Buy or rent a good quality pump with vacuum pressure of 100 to 250 pounds and the ability to cycle at 40 to 60 times per minute.

  • Be prepared to pump up to 20 minutes per breast every 2 to 3 hours, with one 4- to 5-hour stretch once a day.

  • Understand that women differ in milk release and storage capacity.

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10 Tips for Long-term Pumping(Smith, 1998)(Continued)

  • To increase total volume per day, add more pumping sessions; to decrease total volume, allow more milk retention.

  • Maintain a supply of 15% to 20% over a baby’s needs per day.

  • Pumping more frequently can increase milk volume.

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10 Tips for Long-term Pumping(Smith, 1998)(Continued)

  • Hormonal contraceptives may cause a sudden and, possibly, permanent drop in milk supply.

  • Maintaining the milk supply usually becomes easier over time.

  • Long-term milk production may suppress fertility.

  • Focus on the mother-baby relationship.

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Technology Support: Other

  • Creamatocrit

  • Assistive devices for feeding

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  • Lactational amenorrhea—The baby must be younger than 6 months; the mother’s menstrual cycles cannot have returned.

  • Barrier or spermicidal products—These affect breastfeeding less than hormonal methods.

  • Hormonal methods—Progesterone-only products have been found to have less impact on mother’s milk supply than those containing estrogen.

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Employment/Back to School

  • Nurses can help families understand that a woman can continue to breastfeed after returning to work or school.

  • Barriers to continuing breastfeeding (U.S. DHHS, 2000):

    • No on-site childcare

    • Insufficient paid maternity leave

    • Rigid schedules

    • Lack of information

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Employment/Back to School(U.S. DHHS, 2000) (Continued)

  • Benefits of company sponsored breastfeeding initiatives:

    • Less absenteeism

    • Lower health care costs

    • Improved productivity and morale

    • Greater loyalty

    • Enhanced image in the community

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Summary: Use Clinical Evidence

  • Teach families the benefits of human milk using an evidence- based perspective.

  • Ensure that every woman makes an informed decision about breastfeeding.

  • Confront barriers in hospitals that alter the physiology of milk production and undermine the mother’s determination and ability to successfully breastfeed.