MCAGCC TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. -- Parenting can be an experience full of choices, some of them coming even before the birth of a baby. One of the many decisions facing all parents, and first-time parents especially, is whether or not to breastfeed the baby.
Breastfeeding is an issue with strong opinions on both sides, but the Robert E. Bush Naval Hospital has a resource to make the decision, and its execution, simpler.
The Breastfeeding Support Group, which meets weekly, was organized last summer by Lt.j.g. David Loshbaugh, a labor and delivery nurse and lactation educator.
"I believe this group is the first of its kind in the military," said Loshbaugh, standing in the middle of a room full of infants and their older, toddler siblings. "We don't turn anybody away."
The group started when Loshbaugh noticed that after delivery, there was no support network in place to help new parents with the more medical aspects of child-rearing. Together with other lactation educators and counselors at the Naval Hospital, he began to create lesson plans to present information he thought would be valuable to mothers facing the breastfeeding question. According to Loshbaugh, although the group started as a trickle with about four mothers at its first meeting, they soon started coming out of the woodwork.
"You don't get a lot of information at your doctor's appointments," said Melissa Skordoulis, a group member. "There's a lot of information out there and this is a good place to get it."
The group isn't very formal, and that's by design, according to Loshbaugh. Only part of its mission is to present information in a structured setting, and the other aspect, that of mutual support from the women, is equally vital.
"I've enjoyed having the group of friends," said Gretchen Porton, group president. "I think breastfeeding mothers are a minority and I like to surround myself with them."
Although the group recognizes that breastfeeding may not be a choice for every mother, and that some may choose to breastfeed longer than others, one of its goals is to publicize the advantages of the practice.
Breastfeeding increases a baby's resistance to many common ailments, including ear, nose and throat infections, and gastrointestinal disorders. Antibodies present in breast milk have been shown to make for healthier infants, according to Loshbaugh.
The group meets every Thursday at the Community Center, Bldg. 1104, from noon to 2 p.m., and is a women-only (with the exception of male infants) gathering. For more information, call 830-2501.