Breastfeeding is a natural process, says Kathy Walker, but it doesn’t always come naturally.
“Eighty percent of moms in the United States intend to breastfeed, and most leave the hospital breastfeeding their babies,” said Walker, lactation services manager for Wesley Medical Center.
“But as time goes on, a lot of them are not able to be successful.”
A new walk-in clinic to help new moms with breastfeeding issues opened recently near Wesley. Officials hope it improves support for breastfeeding so mothers aren’t left to figure it out for themselves.
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“Breastfeeding is a learned skill. It takes patience and practice and sometimes it takes a little extra help,” Walker said.
The WesleyCare Breastfeeding Clinic is in the Health Strategies building, 551 N. Hillside, Suite 130. It is open on a first-come, first-served basis from 1 to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Mothers who have given birth at Wesley get free services at the clinic. Those who have given birth elsewhere pay a one-time $50 fee.
The clinic is staffed by lactation consultants and registered nurses, Walker said. They answer questions and help mothers with common breastfeeding issues such as positioning and latch, engorgement, infections, plugged milk ducts, and continuing breastfeeding after returning to work.
Clinic staff members also assess infants to make sure they are gaining weight appropriately.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that women exclusively breastfeed their infants for at least six months, with breastfeeding continuing through at least the first year.
While nearly 80 percent of new mothers in Kansas initiate breastfeeding, only 41 percent – less than the national average – are still nursing their babies after six months.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, breast-fed babies have less risk of childhood obesity, diabetes, respiratory and ear infections and sudden infant death syndrome. Breastfeeding also helps the health of the mother, lowering the risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
Walker said the new clinic can offer women solutions to some common problems in a baby’s early days and weeks or later on.
“It doesn’t matter how old a baby is, things change and issues and concerns come up,” she said. “This (clinic) is not something that’s just available when you have a newborn.”