HARKER HEIGHTS — Seton Medical Center invited new mothers and moms-to-be to their “Live Love Latch” event last weekend in celebration of World Breastfeeding Week.

“We are encouraging breastfeeding, supporting moms, trying to give them educational material and letting them know that all these people are here to help them to achieve their breastfeeding goals,” said Heidi Cantrell, the Women’s Center director at Seton Medical Center in Harker Heights.

Many mothers chose to feed their babies with breastmilk to give them the best possible start in life, they say.

“It is the right amount. It is the right temperature. It has the right ingredients. It has the right antibodies – it is everything baby needs to be strong and healthy,” Cantrell said.

But nursing isn’t only beneficial to the baby. Breastfeeding their child also helps mothers to recover from childbirth more easily, while burning additional calories to help loose the weight gained during pregnancy.

“Breastfeeding their baby helps mothers to go back to their prepregnancy state … and in further years, it decreases the chance of breast cancer,” Cantrell said.

Although breastfeeding is the most natural way to feed a baby, new mothers often worry about different aspects associated with their baby’s diet.

“New moms start worrying if their baby is getting enough to eat and how they know if their baby is getting enough to eat,” Cantrell said.

Other common concerns include problems with latching and supply as well as breast soreness.

Lauren Kellam, of Killeen, visited the breastfeeding event with her 10-week-old daughter Alice and encouraged new moms to be strong.

“It hurts. It’s hard. It’s frustrating but once you are through that first week, it is amazing,” she said.

Although Seton Medical Center doesn’t have a lactation consultant on-site, medical personnel try to support new moms as best as they can with information, techniques and referrals to specialists.

“Each mom is different and each baby is different so they both have to learn what they are doing,” Cantrell said. “A lot of it is giving them support, letting them know that they are doing the best they can for their baby and to see what we can do to achieve their breastfeeding goals.”

One of the supporting organizations at Seton Medical Center is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, which provides supplemental foods, health care referrals and nutrition education.

WIC educator Carol Paone experienced during her career that many pregnant women are affected by friends’ and families’ opinion and often chose formula over breastmilk due to lack of confidence and support.

“I would recommend that women inform themselves, that they become empowered and educated in the arena of breastfeeding,” Paone said. “Breast milk is an alive substance. When you put it under a microscope the molecules are actually moving. … Formula doesn’t do that.”

Besides nutritional benefits, breastfeeding can also create a special connection between mother and child. The release of the hormones prolactin and oxytocin let mothers feel emotional satisfaction and maternal fulfillment, which often influences their decision to breastfeed their following children.

Despite problems in the beginning, Lauren Carney, of Temple. has breastfed both of her children.

“We experienced tons of problems, but between my midwife and my lactation nurse I made it work,” the mother of two boys said. “With the first one I made it till six months and then the milk stopped.

“The second one is 14 months old and we are still going strong.”

Her reason for choosing breast milk over formula was simple.

“It’s better for my child — and then the bonding happened — and now I just can’t stop,” she said.

The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding up to six months, followed by continued nursing in addition to complementary food up to two years or older.

According to new statistics by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, over 80 percent of infants are breastfed at some point of their life. However, less than 60 percent of mothers made it to the six-month mark.

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