When Susan Trombley's first child was born in 1982, breast-feeding was not a common practice for new mothers.
In fact, she had never witnessed a mother breast-feeding her baby. Canned formula was the popular choice for that generation, and that's the direction most new moms took.
That all changed, however, when she decided that breast-feeding was in the best interest of each of her babies.
"To me, it seemed natural."
Her sister-in-law had been living in the Philippines, where all mothers breast-fed, and she had done so herself upon returning to the United States, Trombley explained.
"I saw her do it, and I said, 'I'm going to give it a try.'"
Now, nearly three decades later, she is an experienced coach for moms wishing to breast-feed their newborns.
She works for the Clinton County Department of Health as the breastfeeding coordinator for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program and has also been assisting young mothers through the La Leche League since 1986.
Trombley recently added to her skill set by achieving credentials as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), a designation that emphasizes her ability to provide competent lactation and breast-feeding care to the community.
"The IBCLC is the highest form of lactation certification," Trombley said. "The process (certification) tests a person's competency and professional ability to help mothers who wish to breast-feed.
"I love the teaching aspect of nursing," she added. "I've always been fond of helping other moms breast-feed."
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 75 percent of new mothers start breast-feeding their newborns, with the rate dropping to 43 percent by the infant's 6-month birthday.
Healthy People 2020, a national, science-based program of healthy initiatives in several health-care fields, has set an objective that 82 percent of all new moms will be breast-feeding by the end of the decade and that 61 percent of those moms will still be breast-feeding six months later.
Breast-feeding is a natural process, but several issues can arise that create challenges for moms who wish to breast-feed, including sore nipples, low milk supply, engorgement, plugged milk ducts and breast infections
Finding help to face these issues even before the baby is born can improve a new mom's chances for success.
"We're looking at a generation of women who hadn't seen breast-feeding before," Trombley said. "We're filling the role that had been done by other women in the family. We provide information, encouragement and support."
New moms also face challenges from society, including the stress associated with returning to work and having the ability to continue a breast-feeding regimen.
"It can be hard for new moms and stressful for both mom and baby," Trombley said.
Finding support through health-care providers, including trained lactation specialists, can help moms deal with breast-feeding complications, she added.
A STRONG BOND
Studies have shown that breast milk helps keep babies healthy. Breast milk protects against many types of illness, including colds, flu and ear infections. Breast-fed babies are more likely to be normal weight later in life. They learn to stop eating when they are full, not when the bottle is empty.
Also, babies fully breast-fed for six months or longer have shown better results when given IQ tests at school age, some studies say.
Breast-feeding creates a strong bond between mother and child. Fathers can also be part of the experience by sitting with the mom and infant during breast-feeding and talking or singing to the baby during mealtime.
Financially, breast-feeding can save families hundreds of dollars each month, including decreased costs for health care.
Email Jeff Meyers at: firstname.lastname@example.org