Life in Balance: 'A team effort,' succesful breastfeeding often depends on support

Breastfeeding often depends on the help and encouragement moms receives, according to a lactation consultant at Saint Alphonsus in Boise.

BOISE - Keeping Life in Balance can be especially challenging for breastfeeding moms. Idaho has one of the highest rates for breastfeeding in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet, support for nursing moms is seen as some of the lowest in the nation.

Katie Sullivan and Justin Schwartz say they wanted to give their twin boys the best start in life, which is why they chose to breastfeed.

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"It was challenging, time consuming and difficult, but all worth the effort," Schwartz said.

Challenging, time consuming and difficult even for Sullivan, who is a lactation consultant at Saint Alphonsus in Boise. She says successful breastfeeding often depends on the help and encouragement moms receive.

"It's a team effort," Sullivan said. "When I work with families from the get-go I say that. Having that other person there who might have a little bit more wits about them in that moment saying, 'Oh yeah, make sure you're doing that and adjust here' and that kind of thing."

92.9 percent of Idaho moms say they started out breastfeeding, the highest rate in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Breastfeeding Report Card 2016. However numbers show most Idaho moms don't stick with it, as recommended by health care professionals. Only 57 percent exclusively breastfed at three months, and just 28 percent at six months.

The CDC says the drop suggests moms, in part, may not be getting the support they need - from family members, employers or health care providers.

"I think it would be good in our communities and society if we were able to talk more openly about these things and to understand how moms can be supported," Schwartz said.

Idaho has come under fire for its lack of laws that protect and support breastfeeding moms. Idaho is the only state in the nation with no laws specifically allowing women to breastfeed in any public or private location, Legally in Idaho, nursing moms could be cited for public indecency.

MORE: National Conference of State Legislatures Breastfeeding State Laws

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"We don't have any problems with watching cows or dogs or any other animal feed," Schwartz said. "But for whatever reason people get apprehensive if they see the cloth come out for mom to be breastfeeding."

Chris Woerz believes support from his employer has helped him be more supportive at home. He was allowed two weeks off from work when his second child was born four weeks ago.

"It was very important for me to be involved," Woerz said.

Precious time that allowed Chris to be bond with his son while helping his wife, too.

"I help in feeding in other ways," Woerz said. "She'll get set up the chair with a pillow. I'll change the diaper, I'll get the bottle. I'll get something for her to eat. And then I take the baby when she's done and I'll probably change another diaper."

Both Woerz and Schwarz's advice to new dads and family members when it comes to breastfeeding:

"Give yourself some grace when things don't go to plan because they're not going to go to plan all the time," Woerz said.

"Be prepared to put the effort in," Schwartz said. "I don't think people really understand how much of an effort it is for mom, but not only for mom, but for dad to help mom in that process."

Sullivan recommends expectant parents take classes before baby arrives. She says too often parents only think to take classes if problems with feedings arise. She says getting some education and knowing how to access resources is key to successful breastfeeding.

There are number of breastfeeding classes and services available throughout the Treasure Valley: