Article at a Glance
• Breastfeeding protects your baby against a range of health problems.
• Breastfeeding also has health benefits for you.
• There are numerous resources available to help you be successful at breastfeeding.
Did you know that breast milk is not only the best source of nutrition for your baby, but it also helps protect your baby against a whole range of health problems? Breastfeeding even carries health benefits for you! It is no wonder that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months.
A cost analysis recently published online by the journal Pediatrics estimates that nearly 900 infant deaths could be prevented and billions of dollars in medical costs could be saved if 90 percent of women in the U.S. breastfed their babies for the first six months of life.
Breastfeed babies are less likely to have or suffer from:
• Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
• Ear infections
• Stomach viruses
• Respiratory infections
• Eczema (atopic dermatis)
• Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
• Childhood leukemia
• Necrotizing enterocolitis, a gastrointestinal disease in preterm infants
Besides helping you lose weight, breastfeeding can lower your risk of:
• Type 2 diabetes
• Breast cancer
• Ovarian cancer
• Postpartum depression
A Change of Perception
Studies like the one above are hopefully helping parents, doctors, government, and employers change the way they look at breastfeeding. For example, some hospitals already follow the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, meaning they no longer provide formula samples to mothers and are careful to follow practices that encourage breastfeeding. Under the new healthcare bill, large companies are now required to provide private areas for working mothers to pump breast milk. Hopefully changes like these will help make it easier for mothers to breastfeed their babies in the future.
When making the decision about whether or not to breastfeed, keep in mind that there are numerous resources available. Most hospitals have lactation consultants on hand to help you through those first couple of days. In addition, La Lecha League is a nonprofit organization that helps mothers breastfeed by offering support, encouragement, information, and education. Their area representatives can be reached 24 hours a day to answer questions and hold free monthly meetings.
If you are unable to breastfeed due to medical reasons or other situations, don’t feel guilty. The loss of the breastfeeding relationship can be very difficult. It helps to keep things in perspective and focus on all the positive things you are doing for your baby. Taking extra time to connect while feeding your baby or using a breastfeeding supplement system can also provide many of the same bonding benefits.
Tips for Success
1. Avoid nipple confusion by not using bottles or pacifiers until your baby has a good handle on breastfeeding.
2. Learn correct positioning to help prevent sore nipples.
3. Avoid supplementing with formula. Bottle-feeding when you are low on milk will signal your body to produce less milk. Instead, let your baby nurse on demand and after a few days your body will start to produce more milk.
4. Trust your instincts. You know your baby better than anyone else and are uniquely qualified to know what your baby needs.
Although breastfeeding looks like the most natural thing in the world, most women need some form of breastfeeding help. So don’t get discouraged if things don’t go smoothly right away. Breastfeeding takes practice for both you and your baby.
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