There wasn't much talk going around about breast-feeding when my daughter was born in the 1970s. So I never considered it.
But when my youngest child was born prematurely in 1990, there were no ifs, ands or buts about it. He had to be given the best opportunity at optimum health and weight gain. The neonatal nurses, his pediatrician and I all knew breast milk was the best option.
There were difficulties and a disconnect in the beginning while he was hospitalized. Pumping to provide milk for him was no fun. But weeks later, when he squirmed around and worked his way over to my breast during kangaroo care, a skin-to-skin technique for preemies, I knew everything would be fine.
Since then, I try to talk about breast-feeding to all the pregnant women I know and even some that I meet for the first time. I didn't see many young minority women heeding my words, however.
That's why I was happy to get an email from breast-feeding advocate Doraine Bailey, of the Lexington Fayette County Health Department, announcing a new breast-feeding support group that would meet on the north side of town.
Finally, there will be a breast-feeding support group on the north side of Lexington.
"That is part of what is so exciting about this for me," Bailey said. "It will be more accessible to folks who live downtown and on the north side."
Two other groups, hosted by the La Leche League of Greater Lexington, meet at Baby Moon off Richmond Road twice a month. But many of the women Bailey wants to reach may not have transportation to that location.
The new group, Breast-feeding Moms Club, will meet at 1 p.m., March 21 at the health department's Public Health Clinic North, 805A Newtown Circle. It is supported in part by the Frankfort/Lexington Chapter of The Links Inc.
"We are right off New Circle Road and on the bus line," she said.
When I asked why this group is necessary, Bailey said there are new mothers who may be the first in their families to nurse.
"Sometimes the easy community, our families or the people we associate with, may not be the best sources of information, or provide a positive pat on the back," she said. "For those who choose to breast-feed, we want to be there to help them meet their goals."
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2010 Breast-feeding Report Card, about 75 percent of mothers in the United States start out breast-feeding. At the end of six months, 43 percent of babies are breast-fed, 13 percent exclusively.
For black babies, 58 percent start out breast-feeding, with 28 percent still breast-feeding at six months, and only 8 percent breast-fed exclusively at that point.
Breast milk is what human babies are designed to have as their food, Bailey said.
"You can call that evolution or God's design. That is how we as humans are designed to feed our babies. It is an extension of the perfect nutrition the baby got during gestation.
"Babies who are not breast-fed do not get the same quality of vitamins, minerals and nutrients to protect their health and their brains," she said.
Mothers who do not breast-feed miss out on some of the subtle aspects of growing into motherhood, she explained. For example, they lose the personal immune boost and reduced risks of breast and ovarian cancers.
There is also supposed to be a reduction of weight for the mother, but I missed out on that one.
Bailey, an international board-certified lactation consultant, said there will be knowledgeable people at the meeting who can walk mothers through uncertainties and problems. Scales will be there for those with questions about their babies' weight, and healthful snacks for the mother. Private space will be provided for nursing.
Although breast-feeding is the best method for feeding newborns, it is not easy. And if no one supports the new mother, she might give it up too quickly.
"Any time we are faced with change, either to lose weight or quit smoking, it helps to have like-minded people with you," Bailey said. "Every new mom, even if it is her third or fourth child, craves community.
"We constantly have new moms," she added. "We are not banging a drum to make people breast-feed. But for those who choose to breast-feed, we want to be there to help them meet their goals."
Merlene Davis: (859) 231-3218. Email: email@example.com. Twitter: @reportmerle. Blog: merlenedavis.bloginky.com.