In recognition of National Breastfeeding Month, we wanted to talk about the great health benefits of breastfeeding! Most people know that doctors encourage breastfeeding, but not everyone understands why. Breastfeeding is the best source of nutrition for most infants. As an infant grows, mom's breastmilk changes to meet her baby's nutritional needs. Breastfeeding is also more cost-effective than having to buy formula, which can be very expensive, especially when new parents have to deal with other additional costs that come with having a newborn. Breastfeeding can also help protect mom and baby from some short- and long-term health conditions.
What are the Health Benefits of Breastfeeding?
Breastfed infants have reduced risks of:
- Ear infections
- Type 2 diabetes
- Gastrointestinal infection (vomiting/diarrhea)
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) (for preterm and low birthweight infants)
- Respiratory infections
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
- Childhood Leukemia
Mothers can also experience benefits from breastfeeding. Breastfeeding can help lower a mother's risk of:
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
- Ovarian cancer
- Breast cancer
Many mothers also claim breastfeeding helped them recover from childbirth more quickly, and they were able to return to their pre-pregnancy weight faster.
How Long Should a Mother Breastfeed?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of a baby's life. After 6 months, mothers should continue breastfeeding while introducing appropriate solid foods for 1 year or longer. The WHO has similar recommendations, only they encourage mothers to continue breastfeeding along with solids up to 2 years of age or longer.
The longer an infant is breastfed, the greater the protection from certain illnesses and long-term diseases. The same goes for mom – the more months or years a woman breastfeeds (all children combined), the greater the benefits to her health as well. So, if a mother has concerns or questions about breastfeeding, or is experiencing difficulty breastfeeding, she should reach out for help immediately.
Only 1 in 4 infants is exclusively breastfed by the time they are 6 months old. You may be wondering why this number is so low. The truth is that while most mothers want to breastfeed, they stop early due to a lack of ongoing support. Unfortunately, many things can happen to discourage or prevent a mother from breastfeeding. For example, if the baby isn't latching properly, or if mom is experiencing a decrease in supply or has a blocked duct/infection. In addition to these "technical" problems, mothers can also experience emotional distress. For example, if they are given a hard time for breastfeeding/pumping in public or if they are not getting encouragement from their significant other or family members.
When breastfeeding mothers have a strong support system, their potential for success is much higher. Moms need to have someone to turn to for technical breastfeeding advice, as well as someone to rely on for moral support. As CDC's Director of CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, Dr. Ruth Petersen, says, "Breastfeeding provides unmatched health benefits for babies and mothers. We must do more to create supportive and safe environments for mothers who choose to breastfeed." At CCP, we couldn't agree more. In fact, some of our practices have taken great strides to support breastfeeding moms and their babies.
CapitalCare Pediatrics Clifton Park was the first Breastfeeding-friendly Pediatric Practice in Saratoga County. On their initial visit to the office, breastfeeding mothers are introduced to the Certified Lactation Consultants (CLCs) on staff and learn about the services they provide. They also offer appointments exclusively for feeding concerns, and the CLCs are available for phone consults.
CapitalCare Pediatrics Albany is another CCP practice that offers lactation counseling sessions to all new parents. Having CLCs within these offices allows them to work closely with the pediatricians to develop a feeding plan that promotes the parents' wishes and infant's health.
These offices also feature lactation rooms that are designed to be comfortable and soothing for mothers and their babies. Patients are able to use this room at any time to feed their baby and the CLCs will often hold their breastfeeding appointments there as well instead of in an exam room.
Our offices concur that without adequate support, most mothers would give up breastfeeding. They offer these breastfeeding services within their offices to encourage mothers to continue breastfeeding. To find a CCP office that offers lactation support, please call our Concierge Care Coordinator at (518) 782-3800.
In addition to some pediatric offices, mothers can also find support at the maternity ward in the hospital they delivered in, at local Le Leche League offices, or at their OBGYN. They can also join breastfeeding support groups or new mom groups. Moms should also reach out to family and friends and ask for their support as well. Positivity and encouragement from loved ones can go a long way.
So, if you know a breastfeeding mom, remember that support is key. Be sure she has the resources she needs and take a minute to tell her what a fantastic job she's doing! If you are a breastfeeding mother, make sure you have a reliable support system and be proud of what you are doing to support your baby!