By Cindy Wickham, TLC Educational Services Manager
Did you know that breastfeeding helps reduce SIDS, illness, ear infection, and upset tummies in babies? And that despite all of the health benefits of breastfeeding for both infants and their mothers, it can still be challenging for a mother to find a safe, welcoming environment in which to breastfeed or pump?
TLC welcomes breastfeeding and pumping mothers, and is undergoing Breastfeeding Friendly training to further improve our ability to accommodate mother's with nursing infants who are part of our infant & toddlers childcare program.
Breastfeeding Friendly, in addition to HEAL (Healthy Eating, Active Living) training, is part of a center-wide initiative to develop an implementation plan and clear policies regarding healthy eating in our classrooms, educating families about the benefits of quality nutrition on healthy child development, and welcoming breast feeding parents and staff into our facility.
Materials to make TLC a Breastfeeding Friendly site include books and toys to help children understand what breastfeeding is, why it is important, and to normalize seeing it.
Why Breastfeeding Friendly?
By becoming Breastfeeding Friendly certified and implementing HEAL, TLC will be able to better impact positive development in children through increased nutritional intake beginning at birth, and through monitored obesity prevention by classroom teachers, aides, and therapists. Healthy development impacts a child’s behavior in the classroom on a daily basis, as well-nourished minds and bodies are able to focus and learn better.
The Benefits of Breastfeeding and Creating a Space for Breastfeeding
Babies don't need water or cereal, as all the liquids and nutrients they need are provided in their mother's milk. Introducing solid foods before six months of age can replace the nutritional and caloric content provided by a mother's milk, and should be avoided. A newborn’s brain is only about ¼ the size of an adult’s, and grows to be 80% of adult size by age three, and 90% by age five, the age when a preschooler graduates from TLC, making their time at TLC one of the most critical periods in their development for adequate nutrition acquisition, which starts in infancy. Poor nutrition contributes to delays in intellectual development by causing brain damage, illness, and delays of motor skill development. Early shortages in nutrients and exercise can reduce cell production; later shortages can affect cell size and complexity. Nutrient deficits also affect the complex chemical processes of the brain and can lead to less efficient communication between brain cells, potentially crippling a child’s cognitive potential for life.
By giving mothers who are able to breastfeed the space to do so during the day (both breastfeeding and pumping), whether on their lunch break from work, or before dropping off or picking up their child, we are helping mother's build a solid nutritional foundation for their child. This foundation is built upon in our classrooms when TLC teachers help establish healthy eating habits and food preferences.
Infant Feedings at TLC
TLC infant room staff respond to hunger cues from infants in their care. Research shows it is best to feed a baby when it is hungry, not on a strict schedule. Babies have fluctuating appetites as they grow, and may receive different amounts of calories each time they feed, resulting in a need for more or less milk at alternating variables. Cue-feeding has been shown to help babies grow better, stay calm for feedings, and learn to eat when they are hungry, which can prevent over-eating and obesity as they grow. Cues for hunger in infants include opening mouths, sticking out tongues, or moving head side to side. Hand sucking can also be a sign of hunger, and turning away from a breast or bottle a sign of fullness. Infant room staff can store both breast milk and formula on site, and mothers are welcome to come during the day and feed their infants at any time.
Advice on Breastfeeding & Child Nutrition from Boulder County Health
The recommended minimum amount of time to breastfeed an infant is for the first six months. In this time, it is recommended to exclusively feed babies breast milk. Babies don't need solid foods before they are six months old. Solid foods are difficult to digest before this time, and foods like cereal in a bottle can hurt baby's teeth, upset tummies, and interrupt sleep. Mothers are encouraged to breastfeed through the child's first birthday, and for longer if the mother wishes to do so.
A variety of positive food experiences and activities promote good eating habits and development in children. Focusing on programs about child health, breastfeeding, and healthy habits can improve a child's cognitive development early on, and thus impact their mental processing and performance throughout life, and improve a child’s ability to make healthy choices that positively impact their own well-being. TLC's programs for infants, toddlers, and preschool children, including the implementation of Breastfeeding Friendly, help build life-long healthy habits in kids.