Naturally Beneficial: Breastfeeding Still Healthiest Choice for Baby
Good job, moms! The latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control show that four out of five (83.2 percent) infants born in 2015 started out breastfeeding and over half (57.6 percent) were still breastfeeding at six months.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about six months and continued breastfeeding after introducing solid foods for the first year of life or more. That’s because mom’s milk is naturally good. Colostrum, which is produced right after delivery, is even called “liquid gold” because it’s rich in nutrients and antibodies. By the third to fifth day after birth, milk becomes mature and thinner, but with the right balance of fat, sugar, water and protein for baby.
While breastfeeding is better than formula for many reasons, it isn’t always easy for new moms. One study found 60 percent of moms do not breastfeed as long as they intended. Their reasons included issues with lactating and latching on, concerns about infant weight/nutrition and issues with taking medications. Lack of parental leave and unsupportive work environments have also been found to have an impact.
New and not-so-new moms mulling breastfeeding find good reasons to stick with it. Not only is breast milk the ideal food for newborns and infants nutritionally, its antibodies also protect infants from minor illnesses and even life-threatening conditions, including:
- Ear infections
- Stomach flu
- Asthma in young children
- Type 1 and 2 diabetes
- Childhood leukemia
- Sudden infant death syndrome
Moms who breastfeed also experience benefits, including a lowered risk of breast and ovarian cancer later in life. Some studies have found breastfeeding reduces moms’ risk of developing type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and cardiovascular disease.
There are day-to-day perks as well. Moms can burn 500 calories a day producing breastmilk, which can help post-birth weight loss. While breastfeeding, mom’s brain releases prolactin and oxytocin, which help ease stress and anxiety. The practice also saves money and time, and it’s better for the environment since there’s no need for formula and less dependence on bottles and supplies.
If you have questions or you’re struggling with breastfeeding, don’t hesitate to bring it up to your health care provider, who may suggest working with a lactation consultant or breastfeeding specialist. You can also check your local community for a breastfeeding support group.
(Danette Heinle, RN, is CHI St. Alexius Health’s certified breastfeeding counselor. Danette meets with new moms to provide education, counseling, and support to find what works best when it comes to feeding their newborn.)