Why breastfeed?

COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) -- The first week in August is World Breastfeeding Week, and the theme this year calls breastfeeding the first step on "The road to lifelong health." The initiative -- now in its 20th year -- was started by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action as an effort to "protect, encourage and support the practice of breastfeeding."

In 2002 the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF partnered in the effort to create the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding (GS). GS has the goal of creating national policies that would promote adequate nutrition for infants and young children, including breastfeeding.

The Affordable Healthcare Act did just that on Wednesday when a provision went into effect which provides insurance coverage to women who seak support, supplies and counseling for breastfeeding.

"As lactation consultants -- IBCLCs -- we are very excited about this because it makes our services for mothers who need that -- and not everybody needs us -- but the ones that do, now it will be covered by insurance," said Denise Altman, registered lactation consultant and owner of All the Best in Columbia.

Altman said breastfeeding is what we are boilogically meant to do. She said breastfeeding comes with a lot of benefits for both baby and mother. Studies show a history of breastfeeding is associated with a reduction in the risk of many diseases, including obesity, diabetes and sudden infant death syndrome.

"For us the biggest thing is just having a happy healthy baby," said Heidi Bozard, a pediatric speach therapist and mother who breastfeeds. "My son Olen Ray is five months now, and we started breastfeeding him from the beginning. And it's been great to help develop the bond between him and I."

Altman said breastfeeding comes with a host of misconceptions. She decodes four of the most common myths that moms ask her about:

th: Pain is normal for the first several weeks until you toughen up.

Fact: "While nursing a baby for the first time creates a unique sensation, pain is NOT normal," said Altman. "Pain is a sign something is not right (and not necessarily that you are doing it wrong). Get help sooner rather than later."

Myth: If your mother/sister/grandmother couldn't make enough milk, you probably can't either.

Fact: "Low milk supply isn't genetic," said Altman. "This is usually situational as a result of feeding issues and can often be fixed if addressed early."

Myth: Mothers have to eat a bland diet and drink lots of water when breastfeeding.

Fact: "Eat what you like," said Altman. "Moderation in all things. More water doesn't equal more milk."

Myth: Breastfeeding mothers need special bottles.

Fact: "A bottle is a bottle is a bottle, and they pretty much function all the same way," said Altman. "If a baby has a bottle type preference, then that is a function of personality rather than the food. My favorite bottle is the one that is on sale."