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The Insider’s Guide to Healthy Hawaii: Breastfeeding Help for New Moms

The Insider’s Guide to Healthy Hawaii: Breastfeeding Help for New Moms

As a self-proclaimed “professional auntie,” I didn’t really have an opinion on breastfeeding until the birth of my youngest niece about a year and a half ago. That’s when I found out about all the questions and misconceptions around breastfeeding. Recently, I had the chance to learn more from Amber Granite, a breastfeeding peer counselor and certified lactation counselor from the Hawaii Department of Health’s (DOH) Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, who guided me through the evolving world of breastfeeding.

“According to the World Health Organization, breastfeeding is considered one of the most effective ways to ensure a child’s health and survival,” says Granite. It protects infants against asthma, allergies, SIDs and chronic and infectious diseases. Breastmilk is easily digested and prepares babies for solid food. And it has big benefits for moms, too. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of osteoporosis, along with breast, ovarian and uterine cancer. It also promotes emotional health and postpartum weight loss. As if that wasn’t enough, it’s a cost-saver.

Despite its many benefits, there are a lot of misconceptions about breastfeeding. Mothers worry whether they’ll make enough milk or whether it will be painful. While some women have medical conditions that prevent them from producing enough milk, Granite says frequent feedings, gassiness and spit up are normal and not an indicator of poor milk supply. As for pain, Granite says it’s usually a sign of a poor latch, but could be something more serious, and you should seek help. And don’t stress out trying to feed your baby on a strict schedule. Infants should be fed whenever they’re hungry; that need will change over time.

Organizations like the World Health Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics and Hawaii WIC, all agree that if breastfeeding is an option, it is strongly encouraged. But support for breastfeeding can sometimes end at the hospital. “With no prior breastfeeding experience and no one to turn to, mothers often give up,” says Granite. WIC works in communities to support mothers, making the transition from hospital to home as easy as possible.

“There are times when mothers are unable to breastfeed because of medical conditions or other difficulties,” says Granite. “Ensuring babies are well feed and growing great is our top priority. No matter how a mother chooses to feed her baby, WIC still offers support.”

Granite recommends talking to friends and family who have breastfed to get an idea of what it will be like. New moms may also find attending a breastfeeding and/or prenatal class helpful in learning more about breastfeeding and finding support. Granite says it’s important to find an obstetrician and pediatrician who support breastfeeding to get you and baby off to a good start.

Hawaii WIC started the Hiilaupoli program in 2012. The translation means “coming together to support breastfeeding,” and that’s just what’s happening all over Hawaii. Many of the Hawaii WIC classes have a “talk story” feel. Best of all, they’re free! 

Medically reviewed in May 2018.

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