KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Breastfeeding rates are on the rise in the U.S. and Kansas City is no exception.
Marji Stark, a lactation consultant at St. Luke's East Hospital, said, "Currently in Missouri we have about a 70 percent initiation rate for mothers who begin breastfeeding at all. By 6 months, that's about 40 percent. Then, by one year, that's about 20 percent."
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months and breastfeeding for one year.
We asked Dr. Barbara Carr, system medical director for St. Luke's Neonatal Intensive Care Units, what the biggest barriers are for mothers reaching that goal.
"Usually it's going back to work is one of the biggest things I hear from moms and they don't necessarily find they have the support at work that they need to be able to continue to breastfeed," Carr said.
Elizabeth Seitz is a mom of five, who works for Estee Lauder Companies. Seitz has, "Been pregnant or breastfeeding for almost 12 years. All straight, without a day in between."
She also travels for work, so she knows firsthand how tough breastfeeding can be.
"Especially when you're a brand new mama. You're not getting any sleep. You're trying to do everything. You just have no idea what it's going to be like until it happens so I think to see someone on the other side and be like, it gets better, it gets easier. Nursing gets easier. You can do it. You can do it and work. I feel like I've always been able to encourage people that way," said Seitz.
Sarah Burkhart is a trauma nurse at Children's Mercy Hospital by day, and mom to two little boys. She said in the beginning of her breastfeeding journey, "There was a lot of tears. My poor husband."
Sarah found her strength through the community at the St. Luke's East Breastfeeding Support Group.
"Being able to talk to a lactation consultant, being able to weigh my baby and know that he's gaining weight, he's doing well, even though I feel like it might not be going well those physical signs I could that he was and that really got me through the first part," Burkhart said.
Dia Wall is an anchor and reporter at 41 Action News, and mom to a little girl.
"I covered President Trump at the VFW Convention in Kansas City, but I pumped in a storage closet just before his address. I was part of live tornado coverage, then I pumped in the back of a news car on the way back to the station. I've pumped on a plane headed to a conference and in the back of a live truck while the photographer shoots video. You name a place, I've likely pumped there. I never minded though, because I knew that it was all for my baby girl," Wall said.
If you're a working new or expectant mom who wants to breastfeed, it starts with knowing your rights.
"Talk with your employer before you go on your maternity leave about how can I work with you to continue to pump for my baby after I come back for work. Your employer should be really excited about this for you," Carr said.
Stark added, "Mothers have to advocate for themselves. We have wonderful laws in place. The Affordable Health Care Act of 2010 did require employers to provide a time, a space, for mothers to pump their milk at work. That's usually about every three hours, and it should be in a private, clean space, not a restroom."
Know Your Rights
The benefits of breastfeeding are endless for both mom and baby.
"Your baby's going to be healthier. Your baby's going to have fewer infections, fewer simple things like diaper rash, ear infections. For the baby into adulthood, we also see lower instances of things like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disorders in babies that are breastfed for long periods of time when they're an infant," Carr said.
When it comes to mom, Stark shared, "During pregnancy, we actually are in a slowed metabolic state which is fine for pregnancy. What resets that is actually lactation following pregnancy. So it helps mothers get back to their desired weight."
With the increased breastfeeding rate, there are also more places to nurse and pump babies than ever before. From ballparks to grocery stores, more places and businesses are recognizing the need to support nursing moms.
"What these moms want other moms to know"
Seitz: "You're answering emails and you're taking care of everyone else and you're just doing what everybody else needs and then you get to stop and be a mom. That kind of goes back to being a mom first."
Burkhart: "It might be hard and challenging, but it is doable. You can do it after you go back to work. You can do it as long as you want to. Don't let anybody tell you that you can't because it is possible."
Wall: "Some days you're exhausted, stressed and feel like it will never end. I'm on the other side of that to tell you it will. Breastfeeding my daughter for the first year of her life seemed tough at first, but now I would describe it as rewarding.