Breastfeeding has been shown to have numerous benefits for both the infant and mother. Infants receive active immunoglobulins, also known as antibodies, through breastmilk. Babies who are breast-fed have fewer respiratory infections, gastrointestinal infections and ear infections.

Although breastfeeding may not be for all new mothers, the doctors and nurses at Eisenhower Army Medical Center work diligently to encourage and support breastfeeding families.

In June 2017, EAMC began delivering its infants at Doctor's Hospital of Augusta. Doctor's Hospital is the first hospital in the Central Savannah River Area to have the prestigious accreditation as a Baby-Friendly birthing center. This important designation recognizes hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for infant breastfeeding and mother/baby bonding. From the start, families are offered breastfeeding information, confidence and skills needed to successfully initiate and continue breastfeeding their babies.

Breastfeeding decreases the incidence of childhood allergies, eczema and even certain forms of leukemia. Mothers who breast-feed lose their pregnancy weight more quickly and have a decreased incidence of both ovarian and breast cancer. Breastfeeding also strengthens maternal-infant bonding and decreases the incidence of postpartum depression. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months and continued breastfeeding until at least the first year of life.

In EAMC's clinics, the staff continues to be strong breastfeeding advocates and educators. Many nurses attended a lactation training course this past fall. There are now nine lactation counselors/consultants at EAMC, more than any pediatric practice in the CSRA.

New mothers are offered lactation consultations at each visit and EAMC also has walk-in hours available for lactation help. The physicians in both the Family Medicine Clinic and the Community Care Clinic have also received extensive training on breastfeeding support and education.

Last February EAMC sponsored a daylong breastfeeding seminar for physicians, hosted by the Georgia American Academy of Pediatrics. Ninety percent of the staff that cares for newborns attended. Physicians also receive continued lactation education through the lactation program at Doctor's Hospital.

Eisenhower fully supports Georgia state law, Ga. Code An. ? 31-1-9, that supports a mother's right to breastfeed her baby wherever she and her baby are legally authorized to be. (See the sidebar for details.) Additionally, EAMC offers two breastfeeding and pumping rooms -- one in the FMC clinic on the second floor, and one on the 10th floor -- and an additional room is always available in the CCC, if mothers would prefer this space.

EAMC also has adapter kits for mothers to hook up to hospital-grade pumps if they desire or, preferably, the staff can work with mothers with their own pumps so they can increase their comfort.

Tricare will pay for a breast pump with a prescription filled out by the mother's obstetrician.

Mothers are also welcome to breastfeed openly anywhere they choose in the hospital or the hospital grounds. It is important to give mothers all the support and encouragement they need to give their newborns this important benefit.

The decision whether or not to breastfeed is complex and should be made by the mother herself with help from their physician as needed.

Some mothers are unable to breastfeed for a variety of reasons including inadequate supply, the need to be on a medicine unsafe for breastfeeding, need for radiation therapy, or infant with digestion difficulties or any other medical condition incompatible with breastfeeding. The Eisenhower care team understands that exclusive breastfeeding is not always the best option for all mothers and will work extensively with each family to come up with the feeding plan that is best for the infant and the mom in all situations.

The most important goal is for the mother to take care of herself medically and physically so she can enjoy and care for her beautiful new baby.

Editor's note: Dr. Mary Lewis Black is a board-certified fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and is the chief of Pediatrics for Eisenhower Army Medical Center. She also is the mother of two boys who she successfully breastfed for the first year of their lives.

SIDEBAR
Georgia breastfeeding law, Ga. Code An. ? 31-1-9
The breastfeeding of a baby is an important and basic act of nurture which should be encouraged in the interests of maternal and child health. A mother may breastfeed her baby in any location where the mother and baby are otherwise authorized to be.