FORT SILL, Okla. -- New Fort Sill mothers or those who are pregnant and plan to nurse their babies can join two local breastfeeding support groups.

A Fort Sill New Parent Support Program (NPSP) breastfeeding support group meets the fourth Thursday at 12:30 p.m. monthly at the Graham Resiliency Training Campus here. A second group, the La Leche League, gathers the second Tuesday at 10 a.m. monthly at the Lawton Public Library.

Sam Atchley, one of two nurses who lead the NPSP group, said the Lawton-Fort Sill area doesn't offer a lot of resources for breastfeeding moms, especially those who don't qualify for Oklahoma's Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.

"That's why we're excited that we have these two fabulous groups for these women to partake in," she said.

The benefits of breastfeeding are overwhelming. Not only will new moms save time and money not having to purchase expensive formula and constantly wash bottles, but also the natural process positively affects the health of the mother and the baby. Breastfed babies have fewer ear and respiratory infections, and are less likely to be obese and develop childhood cancers. Moms who breastfeed their babies decrease their own risk for postpartum depression and certain cancers.

Further, each time a mom breastfeeds she burns around 500 calories, resulting in a faster loss of baby-weight. It also helps with mother-child bonding.

Yet breastfeeding can be challenging for new moms who lack proper support. In addition to bringing their babies, mothers may bring the baby's father or other family members who want to come and offer support.

"There is space for older children up to the age of 5 to play so mom can focus on being supported by the other mothers," said Atchley. "Moms should bring any topic that they'd like help with that week. We go around the group and share stories."

The support group includes some mothers with toddlers who come to encourage new mothers and share their experiences with breastfeeding.

Some common challenges Atchley said breastfeeding moms face include how to get dad involved and making sure the baby is gaining enough weight. She said if the mom works, it is often challenging to pump.

"It does take time and effort," Atchley said, "but, know your rights."

In Oklahoma, mothers have the right to breastfeed anywhere they have a right to be. The NPSP also offers breastfeeding support through home visitations.

"A lot of moms who come to our group go to La Leche League also," she said. "La Leche League is an international organization dedicated to helping women breastfeed. They follow their own guidelines and philosophy. They're a very supportive group of women, and they have support through their Facebook group as well."

The groups aim to help mothers and increase support in the household.

"It takes mom and family," Atchley said. "There are things dads can do in the middle of the night. They can get up with mom and change the diaper, help get the baby and bring the baby to mom. Encourage her in the middle of the night if she's having difficulties, encourage her not to give up. They have that achievement and that success together when they work through those issues. It's a family bond."

Sign up for the NPSP breastfeeding support group until Sept. 26 through the Army Community Service Facebook page, as space is limited. To learn more about La Leche League meetings, join the La Leche League of Comanche County Facebook group.