Breastmilk...the natural choice for your baby!
For most of human history, infants were fed breast milk, exclusively. Then, in the early part the 20th Century, advances in food science technology led to the production and widespread distribution of evaporated cow’s milk and infant formula. These products were aggressively marketed as being more convenient for mothers, more nutritious than breast milk, and more sanitary and discreet than breastfeeding. While breastfeeding had once been the only choice for mothers, it was now, ironically, viewed with skepticism. As a result, breastfeeding rates declined sharply for much of the 20th Century.
Although the multiple benefits of breastfeeding, for both baby and mother, have been scientifically documented, significant barriers to breastfeeding remain in the United States and worldwide, and breastfeeding rates are not as high as many government officials and medical professionals hope. According to a 2001 report prepared by the World Health Organization (WHO) only 35% of infants worldwide are exclusively breastfed for the first four months of life. This statistic accounts for very low breastfeeding rates in certain African and Southeast Asian countries and correspondingly high rates in some European countries (Sweden, for example, has a breastfeeding rate of 98% at four months).
The results of a survey directed by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that in 2008, 74% of infants in the United States were breastfed at birth, but that only 43% were breastfed at all at 6 months, and only 21% at 12 months.
In recognition of the fact that even small increases in breastfeeding rates worldwide could save millions of live each year by preventing infant diseases, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now recommends that infants be fed only breast milk (no water, formula, other liquids or solids) for about the first 6 months of life. For the next six months, the AAP recommends that mothers continue to breastfeed while solid foods are introduced, and breastfeeding after 12 months should continue as long as mother and baby desire.
The following is a summary of just a few of the benefits of breastfeeding for infants and nursing moms. Please remember that both mom and baby experience benefits even when breastfeeding is done for only a short amount of time...some breastfeeding is always better than none. So, as you begin your journey into motherhood, carefully consider the natural choice for feeding!
Benefits of breastfeeding for babies:
- Nutritional superiority: Breast milk naturally contains the exact amount of fat, sugar, water, and protein that your baby needs. While infant formula mimics the nutritional content of breast milk, formula makers are not able to duplicate all of the ingredients found in breast milk. Breast milk includes antibodies , growth factors, essential fatty acids, and hormones that protect the baby from illness and help the baby develop at just the right pace. Formula does not contain all of these special components.
- Better digestion: Breast milk is typically easier to digest than formula, so breast fed babies often have less gas and intestinal discomfort than formula fed infants.
- Disease prevention: Because breast milk includes antibodies and other immune-enhancing substances that protect babies from infant diseases, breastfed babies have a reduced risk of many diseases, including asthma, ear infections, and allergies, meningitis, urinary tract infections, and diarrhea. And, research indicates that the breast feeding helps reduce the risk of medical conditions and diseases that show up in adulthood. Adults who were breastfed as infants are less likely to be obese, and are less likely to develop diabetes and certain types of cancers, including leukemia, lymphoma and Hodgkin’s disease.
- Reduced exposure to allergens: Most commercially available infant formulas are made from cow’s milk or soy, which are two of the most common food allergens in our food supply. By breastfeeding your baby, you reduce your child’s early exposure to these foods, thereby decreasing the risk that they will develop an allergy to milk and soy protein as infants or later in life.
- Enhanced mother-baby bonding: Breast feeding guarantees regular and frequent opportunities for skin to skin contact and cuddling, which newborns and infants crave.
- Reduced risk of SIDS: Research indicates that formula fed infants are more likely to die from SIDS.
Benefits of breastfeeding for moms:
- Quicker recovery following delivery: When a mom breastfeeds her baby, the hormone oxytocin is released. Oxytocin stimulates the uterus to contract, helping restore the uterus to its normal size and shape.
- Weight loss: Nursing moms require about 500 extra calories per day (approximately 2500 calories total) to support breastfeeding. Producing breast milk burns calories, so even with this extra caloric intake, many breastfeeding moms experience a more rapid return to the pre-pregnancy weight.
- Delayed return of menstruation (amenhorrea): Nursing mothers typically experience a longer time without menstruation following birth, which can help with birth spacing and reducing the mom’s risk of anemia.
- Enhanced mother-infant bonding: Frequent skin to skin contact is as important for a new mom as it is for a newborn baby. Breastfeeding allows many opportunities throughout the day for you to snuggle your baby close.
- Reduced risk of cancer: Research indicates that women who breastfeed have a reduced risk of developing certain types of cancers, including breast, ovarian, cervical and uterine cancer.
- Convenience and cost: Breastfeeding is more convenient than formula feeding as the baby’s food is always available and at the right temperature. In addition, formula feeding is significantly more expensive, costing approximately $4.00 per day. Also, breast fed babies tend to get sick less often. As we all know, taking care of a sick baby can be stressful, inconvenient and costly, due to loss of sleep, missed work and extra trips to the doctor.
Breastfeeding References and Resources
While breastfeeding is completely natural, it is not always easy. It can be difficult, at first, for mom and baby to get the hang of breastfeeding. Most hospital birthing centers now have trained lactation consultants on staff to help mom and baby learn proper breastfeeding techniques before leaving the hospital. In addition, the following resources offer information, tips and support to help you gain confidence in your decision to breastfeed.
Don’t forget! A nursing mom needs extra calories, lots of water, and as much rest as possible...and a dietary supplement to ensure that all her nutritional needs are being met. Try Nursing Blend, a comprehensive formula of vitamins, minerals and a blend of breast milk enhancing herbs.