Thursday, August 27, 2015

National Breastfeeding Month: Benefits and Resources

Breastfeeding is one of the most effective preventive health measures for infants and mothers. For infants, breastfeeding decreases the incidence and severity of many infectious diseases, reduces infant mortality, and optimally supports neurodevelopment. 

Breastfeeding may also decrease infants’ risk of becoming obese later in childhood. Short- and long-term benefits to mothers who breastfeed include decreased risks of breast and ovarian cancers, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and more rapid maternal weight loss after birth. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics makes the benefits of breastfeeding easy for parents and children to understand:

Why is breastfeeding so good for my baby?

1. Breastfeeding provides warmth and closeness. The physical contact helps create a special bond between you and your baby.

2. Human milk has many benefits.
  • It's easier for your baby to digest.
  • It doesn't need to be prepared.
  • It's always available.
  • It has all the nutrients, calories, and fluids your baby needs to be healthy.
  • It has growth factors that ensure the best development of your baby's organs.
  • It has many substances that formulas don't have that protect your baby from many diseases and infections. In fact, breastfed babies are less likely to have:
    • Ear infections
    • Diarrhea
    • Pneumonia, wheezing, and bronchiolitis
    • Other bacterial and viral infections, such as meningitis
  • Research also suggests that breastfeeding may help to protect against obesity, diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), asthma, eczema, colitis, and some cancers.

Why is breastfeeding good for me?

Breastfeeding is good for you because it helps:
  • Release hormones in your body that promote mothering behavior.
  • Return your uterus to the size it was before pregnancy more quickly.
  • Burn more calories, which may help you lose the weight you gained during pregnancy.
  • Delay the return of your menstrual period to help keep iron in your body.
  • Provide contraception, but only if these 3 conditions are met:
    • You are exclusively breastfeeding and not giving your baby any other supplements
    • It is within the first 6 months after birth
    • Your period has not returned
  • Reduce the risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer.
  • Keep bones strong, which helps protect against bone fractures in older age.
According to the CDC 2014 Breastfeeding Report Card, 79% of US infants started breastfeeding in 2011. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about six months, with continued breastfeeding through at least the first year. 

In the United States, 49% of infants are breastfeeding at six months, yet only 19% are exclusively breastfeeding. A closer look at the rates reveals substantial geographic and racial/ethnic disparities. These rates are far from meeting some of Healthy People 2020’s established targets: Increase the proportion of infants who are ever breastfed to 82%, increase the proportion of infants who are breastfed at 6 months to 61%, and increase the proportion of infants who are breastfed exclusively through 6 months to 26%. 

Resources for you:

Check out the recent DEL blog post about Breastfeeding Friendly Washington to get up-to-date information about positive changes happening in this state. 

A great resource for mothers or women considering being mothers in Washington State is the Department of Health's Healthiest Next Generation page dedicated to breastfeeding. Check it out here: Breastfeeding in WA.

Earlier this summer, news stories surrounding the controversy of breastfeeding in public surfaced. If you aren't confident breastfeeding in public, check out this helpful article with tips on how to go about it: A Guide to Breastfeeding in Public with Confidence.

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