Breastfeeding Benefits Both Mother and Baby

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Breastfeeding is a personal decision for mothers and it is important that they are provided with adequate information to make an informed decision on their infant feeding choice.  Regardless of the choice a mother makes, they should be supported and educated.  However, the decision to breastfeed is incredibly beneficial for both mother and baby.  The American Academy of Pediatrics, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the World Health Organization recommend exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months, which means only breastmilk during that time.  After six months, the recommendation is to continue to breastfeed with complimentary food for a year or longer if the mother and child desire.

 Breastmilk is tailor-made to meet the infant’s needs.  It is considered to be the best source for infant nutrition. Breastmilk contains carbohydrates, proteins, fat, vitamins, minerals, digestive enzymes, hormones, immune cells, stem cells, and a variety of bioactive molecules, which protects the infant’s GI tract, enhances the immune system and aids in brain development.  Along with the numerous anti-inflammatory factors and anti-infective properties, breastmilk is easier for infants to digest compared to formula.

 Large amounts of data from various studies shows the health benefits of breastfeeding for infants and children.  Exclusively breastfed infants have a reduced incidence of hospitalizations and decreased rates of childhood illnesses and diseases. Breastfed infants have a reduced risk of childhood leukemia, lymphoma, asthma, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes.  They also have a decreased risk of gastrointestinal, ear, and respiratory infections.  Breastfed infants have a lesser chance of developing celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and allergic diseases such as food allergies and atopic dermatitis.  Exclusive breastfeeding is shown to decrease the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and the morbidity/mortality rate from infectious diseases.  Furthermore, studies have shown increased intelligence and neurodevelopment benefits in breastfed infants.

 Breastfeeding has many short and long term benefits for the mother as well.  Breastfeeding burns an additional 500 calories a day, which makes it easier for mothers to lose weight. Immediately postpartum, breastfeeding can decrease postpartum bleeding and promote maternal bonding. In addition, breastfeeding decreases a mother’s risk of hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, certain types of breast cancers, and ovarian cancer.

 There are also economic benefits associated with breastfeeding. Families can save over $1,200 in formula costs in the first year alone by choosing to breastfeed.  Studies have shown that breastfeeding working mothers take less sick days to care for their breastfed infant and have higher productivity rates. In addition, healthcare costs for breastfed infants are significantly lower.  According to the CDC, the US would save $3 billion a year in healthcare costs if breastfeeding rates increased.

 Tips for successful breastfeeding:

  1. Attend childbirth/breastfeeding classes to learn about breastfeeding before the infant arrives. Talk to your physician about any questions you may have.
  2. Feed the infant within the first hour of life and remain skin-to-skin with the infant until after the breastfeeding.
  3. Allow the infant to stay in the room 24/7 with the mother and follow infant feeding cues to determine when to nurse the infant.
  4. Do not put a time limit on how often the newborn breastfeeds. Breastfed infants nurse a minimum of 8 to 12 times a day.
  5. Practice skin-to-skin as much as possible. Skin-to-skin promotes breastfeeding.
  6. Seek help with any breastfeeding difficulty. UH Samaritan Medical Center has lactation staff available to support breastfeeding mothers /infants.  Outpatient consults are available as needed. 
  7. Avoid pacifiers/bottles for at least four weeks until breastfeeding is established.
  8. Do not supplement with formula unless medically indicated.
  9. Join a breastfeeding support group in your community. UH Samaritan Medical Center has a monthly breastfeeding support group the second Monday of every month. You do not need to register and there is no cost to attend.

Supporting mothers in their breastfeeding journey is essential.  Family and friends should support and encourage breastfeeding mothers.  Employers and businesses should provide clean places for mothers to breastfeed and help promote breastfeeding in the community.  Community members all have a role in supporting breastfeeding mothers.

For more information regarding breastfeeding classes or if you have any questions, please call 419-207-2438.

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