Occasional meetings with a lactation consultant encourage breastfeeding among women who normally resist the idea, according to a pair of clinical trials published in a single paper.

According to guidelines set by the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies should receive only breast milk for the first six months of life then continue with breast milk for the next year as they add other food into their diet. Currently, only about 75 percent of babies in the United States breastfeed at all and less than half are still being breast fed at six months.

Breastfeeding provides many health benefits to the baby, such as lower risk for ear infections and stomach illnesses. Breastfeeding is also good for the mother, lowering her risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and pre-menopausal breast cancer.

The single scientific paper published in the American Journal of Public Health contains the results from two clinical trials. The results of one trial showed that women who received professional encouragement, education, and support for breastfeeding were four times more likely to breastfeed exclusively for the baby’s first month and three times as likely to be breastfeeding at the three-month mark.

The pair of trials contained a large number of young Black/Hispanic, overweight women with less education, as these groups of women are statistically the least likely to breastfeed their babies. Both trials tested the effectiveness of encouragement distributed from two sources: support from a lactation consultant (LC); and electronic prompts (EPs), which remind practitioners to discuss breastfeeding during prenatal visits.

Two out of three of the women in the trials were obese or overweight, conditions that can make breastfeeding more difficult – babies have more difficulty latching on, overweight women may have trouble producing enough milk, and some mothers may have psychological issues that discourage them from breastfeeding. Education and support from a lactation counselor help women overcome these barriers and significantly improve the likelihood that they will breastfeed for the first three months.

The second study included in the paper found that babies of women who receive support from LCs or see physicians receiving EPs were three times more likely to receive most of their feedings through breast milk.

Source: Albert Einstein College of Medicine. "Lactation consultant visits spur breastfeeding among women who usually resist it." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 31 Dec. 2013. Web. 19 Jan. 2014.

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