When Guadalupe Franco had her first child, she wasn’t sure how to breastfeed. Now, after training as a community health worker, Franco is a B’More for Healthy Babies lactation counselor and teaches other women how to have better relationships with their children through breastfeeding.
“When I had my first kid, I just didn’t know all this stuff,” Franco says.
B’More for Healthy Babies is an organization led by the Baltimore City Health Department and financially supported by Johns Hopkins. Their main goal is to reduce pre-term deliveries and infant deaths, but they also focus on healthy pregnancies and healthy newborn care.
Franco runs a community breastfeeding group two Thursdays a month from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The group is open to all, but right now she has more than 10 Spanish-speaking moms.
“I show all the moms how to get better results,” Franco says. “I always recommend skin-to-skin contact (baby is placed belly-down, directly on mom’s chest) because it promotes better breastfeeding. You’re very close to your baby, and you can learn about him and see he’s enjoying your company.”
Franco says her group enjoys the bimonthly meeting because members can exchange information.
“They socialize and really just like to talk to each other,” Franco says.
Johns Hopkins Hospital GYN/OB Perinatal Lactation Coordinator Nadine Rosenblum says there is ample evidence to support that breastfeeding provides the best health outcomes for both mom and baby.
“Breastfeeding reduces baby’s risk for acute and long-term health problems,” Rosenblum says. “It’s also healthier for mom right after delivery because it prevents postpartum hemorrhage, helps her to bond with the baby and helps her learn how to care for her baby.”
Rosenblum also says longer-term breastfeeding helps reduce mom’s risk of multiple health conditions such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, endometrial cancer, high blood pressure and heart disease. It also may help her lose her pregnancy weight.
The Johns Hopkins Hospital offers one free prenatal breastfeeding class per month at its outpatient center.
“Some women know they want to breastfeed and they just want to learn what that means,” Rosenblum says. “Other people aren’t even aware of the health benefits and are coming from a place where formula feeding is part of the culture. They may feel like there are a lot of things that interfere with breastfeeding so they don’t even get started.”
Rosenblum says there are many resources that can help people overcome breastfeeding challenges.
One such resource is the Johns Hopkins Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. With the help of federal grants, Johns Hopkins WIC provides low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women and their children with supplemental foods, health care referrals and nutrition education. Lactation consultant and breastfeeding program coordinator Mayra Pappaterra facilitates breastfeeding classes.
“If the baby is not latching or if it’s hurting, moms will need assistance to help solve the problem,” Pappaterra says.
Pappaterra says the American Academy of Pediatricians recommends breastfeeding exclusively without solid food for the first six months. She says the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund both recommend breastfeeding for up to two years.
Babies should be as close to mom as they can be, Pappaterra says. She too recommends skin-to-skin contact.
“Mom’s body controls baby’s temperature, breathing, heart rate and blood sugar,” she says. “Everything that baby needs to control, Mom’s body can do it. It’s very powerful.”
Most importantly, Pappaterra urges moms not to get discouraged.
“Make an appointment, bring a hungry baby, and I’ll help you put it on the breast,” Pappaterra says.
To make a Johns Hopkins WIC appointment, call 410-614-4848.
For more information about the community breastfeeding group, call 443-703-3676.