Breastmilk: Every little bit helps

Sally Tantilla still nurses her three-year-old son, Matthew. At his age, though, breastmilk is not a major component in his nutrition. He only nurses briefly once a day, when he needs help settling down to sleep for the night. Mom is grateful to have such a handy parenting tool. "I thank God," Tantilla said. "Sometimes he's so tired he's out of his mind. (He nurses) just a couple of minutes and he's out. It's a comfort thing for him."

Tantilla says she knows Matthew is almost through with nursing, and just in time, too. She is expecting her second child in March. "A lot of moms find themselves tandem nursing when the second baby comes around," she said. A 1997 statement from the American Academy of Pediatricians, based on research from Europe and other developed countries, recommends breastfeeding at least through a child's first year as long as this is comfortable for both mother and baby.

"Many moms don't nurse beyond three months," Tantilla said. "It's not because they don't want to. It's connected to our society which encourages women to get back to work," she said.

Tantilla knows many breastfeeding women. She is a leader of the La Leche League of Villa Park. The league is a not-for-profit, nonsectarian organization dedicated to providing education, information, support and encouragement to women who want to breastfeed. Even future mothers who are thinking of breastfeeding may attend meetings or call the leaders for help.

Women also can get assistance and support from professional lactation consultants. Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downers Grove, for example, has a staff of five internationally board-certified lactation consultants who also happen to be registered nurses. They meet with expectant and new parents to answer any questions. They disseminate checklists so Mom and Dad can watch for trouble signs. And they call the parents at home within two days to make sure all is going well.

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