ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month and it comes as the CDC encourages breastfeeding among new moms who have had COVID-19 or received the vaccine, as some level of immunity can be passed on to the baby through breastmilk.
Experts recommend exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months, and continuing longer if possible. It’s not just about keeping baby fed. “They’re being regularly inoculated and protected against common illnesses not so common illnesses, not the least of which is COVID-19,” said Barb Donnelly, nurse and lactation consultant at St. Peter’s Hospital.
Donnelly says breastmilk is abundant in nutritional components like antibodies, giving babies stronger immune systems. “Protecting against gastrointestinal disease, ear infection, and then in the long term, asthma, allergies, obesity,” she said. “It’s kind of a win-win across the lifespan of babies who are breastfed.”
Nursing also benefits mom. It’s economical, burns calories, and is emotionally healthy. “Skin-to-skin contact actually releases oxytocin,” Donnelly says, “which is a really great feel-good, love, bonding hormone.”
That’s why many hospitals, including St. Peter’s, have done away with nurseries, and Donnelly says there’s been far less crying because of it. “It would almost become white noise, in a way, and now if I hear a baby crying it’s like, ‘What is going on?’ she says. “Because the babies are with their mothers and parents, where they should be.”
Donnelly says she’s not anti-formula, but if it’s needed to supplement, women can try to protect their milk supply by pumping. “The more formula baby gets, the less time they may spend at the breast, and that can cause a mom to lose her supply before things have gotten off the ground.”
Promoting breastfeeding is a shared responsibility because moms need medical, family, and employer support to meet their breastfeeding goals. “Employers regularly being aware of their responsibility and co-workers providing support like, ‘Hey, I got this, go ahead. While you pump, I’ll answer your phone,’ or whatever the case may be.’”
Unfortunately, nursing in public can still carry a stigma. For example, Donnelly describes: “Someone coming up and interfering while you’re feeding your baby with their thoughts and opinions about maybe, ‘You should do that somewhere else,’ or, ‘Cover-up,’ or, ‘That’s gross.’”
Thousands of women have quieted those voices by sharing photos and information to educate and normalize nursing in public. Federal and state law protects a woman’s right to pump at work. If you’re not getting the time or are being punished for taking it, you should file a complaint with the State Department of Labor.