Look to August 1-7, 2013 as World Breastfeeding Week! 2013’s focus is on the support for the mother to consider the breast. Did you breastfeed? What kind of support did you experience? The main support system for mothers usually includes their family and friends. But, did you get the chance to work with a lactation consultant (IBCLC) or peer counselor? Most moms find the first two weeks the hardest. Once you get past these two weeks, breastfeeding becomes more natural and eventually even second-nature. Making a commitment to breastfeeding before you start and developing a support system to help you through the transition leads you to success!
The following are The Healthy People 2020 objectives aimed at increasing the rate of breastfeeding in our nation:
- Ever breastfed: increase to 81.9% of babies
- Breastfed up to 6 months: 60.6% of babies
- Breastfed at 1 year: 34.1% of babies
Take a look at how our nation is doing with breastfeeding:
- 76% of US mothers breastfed in the early days after birth
- 47% of US mothers breastfed for the first 6 months
- 25% of US mothers breastfed for the first 12 months
Women, Infant and Children (WIC) reports that their breastfeeding initiation rates increased from 34.3% in late 2006 to 57.3% in March, 2013 possibly related to the initiation of peer counselors. Check out how WIC supports breastfeeding!
You can see that we as a nation have some work to do!
Why such a focus and hype about breastfeeding?? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively (meaning no water, solids or other beverages) for the first 6 months, and then continuing to breastfeed with complementary solids at least through one year old.
What are the benefits for mom when she breastfeeds?
When a woman breastfeeds, she releases oxytocin– helping the uterus contract every time she nurses and reduces uterine blood flow (getting back to a pre-pregnancy shape!). It also helps mom bond quicker with her baby while also possibly decreasing postpartum depression. Exclusive breastfeeding can delay the mother’s ovulation – but, that should not be a full proof form of birth control. Breastfeeding also demands 500 extra calories for the mother to eat during the first 6 months of pregnancy. With that, a breastfeeding mother may be able to return to her pre-baby weight quicker. Plus, breastfeeding is linked to mom’s decreased chance of getting certain cancers or diabetes later.
What are the benefits for the baby?
There are so many!! The amazing thing about breast milk is that the mother will produce the just the right balance of nutrition for what the baby needs. The form of carbohydrate, protein and fat in breast milk makes it easily digestible and supports the optimal development of the cognitive (brain) and digestive systems. Research shows that breastfed infants experience fewer chronic diseases, improved immunities, less obesity as adults, and higher cognitive scores.
- When moms and babies gain health benefits from breastfeeding, health care costs drop (dramatically) and parents can focus on working (and sleeping) instead of caring for a sick baby. The USDA estimated the US could save 3.6 billion dollars per year in health care costs from ear infections to gastroenteritis if the Healthy People goals were reached.
- Breastfeeding saves money otherwise spent on formula and feeding supplies. The average cost of formula per year is estimated at $700 (if a specialized formula is required, the cost can rise to $3000 per year).
- Breastfeeding makes no demands on the environment (think manufacturing, shipping, packaging, and advertising). There are no materials to breastfeeding!
Why I think breastfeeding is so cool: Please don’t knock it until you have tried it. The love you can feel is incredible…and the little baby falling asleep on you is amazing. Then the hard facts: It is free; traveling with a breast fed infant includes just diapers and wipes (and maybe an extra outfit); often, people don’t know when mom is nursing; when our boys cried, they were fed without worries of making a bottle. I can go on!
With all this information, Why wouldn’t you breastfeed?
For more information, refer to this awesome reference: Your Guide to Breastfeeding.
Tune in next week for stories from women about breastfeeding!