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Breastfeeding is natural but sometimes help is needed

Kendra Hutchison received support from Essentia Health lactation counselors when she found herself struggling to breastfeed her daughter, Kara, now age 14 months.

Kendra and Dave Hutchison were like most first-time parents - excited and learning as they went.

"The main thing I wanted was for everyone to be healthy," recalled Dave Hutchison.

In preparation for baby Kara's arrival they took classes and Kendra was chatting in forums with other expecting moms. She had already planned to breastfeed because of her allergies to pollen, dairy, perfumes and many other things.

"I knew there were allergy prevention benefits, but after we took the Breastfeeding Class at Essentia Health I learned about so many more benefits including the cost savings."

The Department of Health and Human Services' reinforces the importance of breastfeeding as one of the most effective measures that a mother can take to improve health outcomes for herself and her baby. Babies who breastfeed have a lower risk of ear infections, lower risk of respiratory infections and lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). For mothers, breastfeeding is linked to a lowered risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and postpartum depression.

Labor and delivery went quickly for the Hutchisons and after an unplanned c-section they finally got to meet Kara. "We spent our first moments with Kara just looking at her and determining who she looked like. The dark brown hair was a big surprise," Kendra Hutchison said.

Another surprise was the difficulties experienced with breastfeeding. "Kara just didn't want to latch," recalled Kendra.

Most women need some assistance with breastfeeding, explained Missy Lake, RN, CLC, ICCE, Lactation Services coordinator at Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Medical Center.

"There's a misunderstanding that because breastfeeding is natural, you don't need help. But birth is also natural and we know that mothers need help and support with that," she says.

Lake and other lactation counselors help mothers get off to a good start and encourage them to continue breastfeeding. They offer breastfeeding education during pregnancy; breastfeeding support while mom is in the hospital; a Mom's Morning Out support group post-partum; one-on-one appointments; and a free community resource, the Infant Feeding Support Line - 855-710-BABY (2229).

Kendra said the first few months were hard. Everything was new and frustrating at times when Kara wasn't latching on or having colic symptoms.

"This is when I turned to Missy for help. We had a few appointments and used MyHealth messaging a lot. This was a great way to communicate and get quick answers," Kendra said.

Lake added: "Kendra struggled with breastfeeding in the beginning, but made short term goals ... day to day, one month, three months, then six months. Their daughter, Kara, is now over a year old and still breastfeeding."

Even with both her and Dave's families nearby in Staples, Kendra found that online forums and birth boards offered encouragement from other moms experiencing similar challenges.

According to The Department of Health and Human Services more moms are choosing to breastfeed. In 2010, 77 percent of all babies in the U.S. were ever breastfed, up from 70 percent in 2000. In the Brainerd lakes area this percentage is even higher with more than 80 percent of mothers choosing to breastfeed.

Dave shared that breastfeeding was convenient from his perspective and he didn't feel left out. "I was able to help in other ways, like taking Kara for walks around our neighborhood in Brainerd, helping with meals, and making sure Kendra's water glass was always full."

For Kendra, going back to work meant establishing a new schedule, pumping three times a day and continuing to bond with Kara by breastfeeding in the morning, evening and at night.

"I love the quiet time we spend sitting together. I also feel breastfeeding helped Kara recover more quickly when she has had illness," shared Kendra.

The best advice Kendra said she received was not to get discouraged. Now 14 months old, Kara is a happy healthy girl full of smiles.

Kendra is grateful for the support she received from Missy and the staff at Essentia.

"The feeling is mutual," Lake said. "At Essentia we are here for moms, babies and their loved ones to support them in good health." If you want to learn more about breastfeeding resources and benefits now is a great time to ask as August is breastfeeding awareness month and August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week. A time when organizations and communities bring attention to the benefits of breastfeeding and offer moms support and encouragement to be successful at breastfeeding.


Infant Feeding Support Line

Call: 855-710-BABY (2229)

Hours: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.. Monday-Friday

Specially trained registered nurses and nurse practitioners at Essentia Health answer questions and provide support to moms, dads, grandparents or anyone caring for an infant. Talk to these experts about breastfeeding and bottle-feeding. They can get mothers off to a good start, help with any challenges and ease their transition back to work or school. The free service is open to anyone.