Breastfeeding Awareness Month

August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month. A mother’s breast milk has numerous health benefits for both mom and baby. To begin with, it’s naturally produced to be the perfect nutrition for your baby, with disease-fighting antibodies. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends exclusively breastfeeding babies for the first six months of life, and then combining breast milk with the introduction of complimentary foods until baby is at least 12 months. The World Health Organization recommends even longer – through at least the age of two. Rachel Juckem RN, IBCLC, Lactation Consultant at Aurora Health Care in Oshkosh states, “Breastfeeding has many benefits. It helps protect babies against asthma, childhood obesity, diarrhea, respiratory infections, ear infections, SIDS, and some childhood cancers.”

Here are just a few benefits of breastfeeding for both mom and baby:
 
  • Colostrum is like liquid gold. Colostrum is the thick yellow breast milk that is made during pregnancy and shortly after birth. It’s extremely rich in nutrients and antibodies to help protect your baby and build his or her immune system.
  • Breast milk provides the perfect nutrition.  A mother’s body naturally produces the perfect proportions of fat, carbohydrates, and protein every time your baby nurses. It even changes with your growing baby’s needs. Breast milk also provides crucial antibodies that can actually fight disease and lower the risk of your baby developing all kinds of diseases and chronic illnesses later in life.
  • Breast feeding satisfies a baby’s emotional needs.  The closeness of breastfeeding your baby promotes crucial bonding and skin-to-skin contact which is important for emotional and social development. Plus, it releases endorphins, which act as a natural soother and pain suppressant for baby.
  • Breastfeeding is associated with a higher IQ.  The latest study to support this was done in New Zealand, where an 18-year longitudinal study found that children who were breastfed had better intelligence and greater academic achievement.
  • Breastfeeding lowers the risk of post-partum depression and stimulates healing.  It was reported in a study published in the journal Maternal and Child Health that breastfeeding can cut the risk of post-partum depression in half.  Breastfeeding stimulates the release of the hormone oxytocin in the mother’s body. Often known as the “feel good” hormone, oxytocin also stimulates contractions, which cause the uterus to shrink more quickly to its pre-pregnancy size. This also shuts off the maternal blood-vessels that formerly fed the baby and discourages excessive bleeding.
  • Breastfeeding has been linked to a lower type of Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and breast, uterine, and ovarian cancers. One of the reasons for the cancer-fighting effects of breastfeeding is that estrogen levels are lower during lactation – resulting in a lower risk of these tissues becoming cancerous. 
  • Breastfeeding costs less and is more convenient.  Formula and feeding supplies can cost well over $1,500 each year, depending on how much your baby eats. Breastfed babies are also sick less often, resulting in fewer missed days at work and lower health care costs.
Unfortunately, America is the one of the few developed countries without a law ensuring new mothers receive paid maternity leave. For some women, returning to work is often cited as the reason why they choose not to breastfeed, or to only breastfeed for a short time.

Through the U.S. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), large employers (more than 50 employees) are now required to provide moms and babies younger than 12 months with a reasonable break time for pumping, and a private place to pump, other than a bathroom. Another result of the law was for most benefits plans to provide pregnant or post-partum women with comprehensive lactation support and counseling, by a trained provider, during pregnancy and/or in the postpartum period.