How ABM enables mothers and babies to breastfeed
We know that in the first six months of life infant nutrition is very important for growth and development, but it doesn’t just end there. These early decisions about how babies are fed have an ongoing impact throughout childhood and into adulthood. Therefore, finding opportunities to optimize infant feeding during this period is crucial to ensure infants are able to reach their potential.
Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life is the most appropriate method of infant feeding, yet many babies are not exclusively breastfed at all, or only for a limited time. This is in spite of the fact that most mothers are aware that breastfeeding is the best option for their babies, and the majority initiate breastfeeding immediately after birth.
Mothers who have the support of family, physicians, nurses and health workers are more likely to continue to breastfeed when they run into unexpected breastfeeding problems or are uncertain of what they should do. If these problems are complex, or the mother has specific medical issues, having a physician with breastfeeding knowledge and expertise is even more important. However, many physicians have not had the training or experience to provide the help and assistance mothers need.
From its formation nearly 20 years ago the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM) has recognized the important role that physicians play in encouraging, assisting and advising mothers about breastfeeding, as well as promoting and protecting breastfeeding and lactation in a wider context. As a physician, multispecialty, world-wide organization, ABM aims to educate physicians and has become the leader in physician breastfeeding education and information sharing. Educational activities include our course, What Every Physician Needs to Know (about breastfeeding), which contains wide ranging breastfeeding information from basic anatomy and physiology to clinical scenarios common in practice. This course is run every year before the annual conferences in the US and will become more widely available in the future. Both the annual conference and regional conferences in Europe provide a venue for physicians to keep up-to-date with new breastfeeding initiatives, gain further insights about providing the best services for women and network with other breastfeeding medicine enthusiasts. From a research standpoint, the journal Breastfeeding Medicine publishes original articles and commentaries about many different aspects of breastfeeding.
However, our most widely known undertaking is the production of our evidence-based protocols that are freely available on the ABM website (www.bfmed.org ) and through the National Guidelines Clearinghouse. These protocols are written to educate and guide clinical practice on topics as diverse as Mastitis, Breastfeeding and drug-dependent women, and Allergic proctocolitis in the exclusively breastfed infant. They can be used by physicians, nurses, midwives, lactation consultants and hospitals in their day-to-day interactions with mothers and to help set guidelines, procedures and protocols.
The intended outcome of all these activities is to enable mothers to breastfeed and infants to be breastfed without hindrance.
This month, March for Nutrition, highlights the importance of nutrition throughout the lifespan. By putting the spotlight on the first six months of life we can help lay the foundations for a healthy and productive life.
Wendy Brodribb, MBBS (UQ), IBCLC, PhD, is President of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine and Senior Lecturer and Research by Higher Degree Student Co-ordinator at the Discipline of General Practice, University of Queensland.
Posts on this blog reflect the opinions of individual ABM members, not the organization as a whole.