August is National Breastfeeding Month, and thus a great time to spotlight all the wonderful benefits of “Mother’s Milk”. It’s also a good time to make families aware of the various resources available to every mom who wants to breastfeed. Whether the decision is to breastfeed for weeks, months, longer, or not all, it is a very personal choice, and one that should be made after weighing all the facts.
Doctors encourage every mother who is able to breastfeed her baby to do so. That’s because medical science has definitely shown that breastfeeding has numerous emotional and health benefits for babies and moms. Not only does it develop and support the bond between the two, it is proven to be good for the health of both.
Breast Milk Has Great Natural Properties
Studies show breast milk naturally produces its own sort of medicine to help maintain baby’s health. Some of the many benefits of breast milk include:
- Colostrum or “pre-milk”, which is the first milk a mother makes during pregnancy and immediately after birth is full of nutrients and antibodies that protect babies from infections.
- Babies who are breastfed are at lower risk of illness including conditions such as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), ear infections, diarrhea and vomiting, asthma, childhood leukemia, and many other health challenges that can follow them through life.
- A mother’s milk is unique to each child. The cells, hormones, and antibodies in breast milk have their own unique protective properties, and changes to meet each baby’s specific needs as they grow.
- Breast milk is adjustable, meaning it naturally increases its levels of protein and sugar to help keep babies full and satisfied for a longer time.
Why Breastfeeding is Good for Mommy Too
There is no shortage of old wives’ tales about the benefits of breastfeeding. What was once simple advice handed down from one mother to another now has scientific findings to back it up:
- Breastfeeding helps mothers heal better after delivery. It also lessens mother’s bleeding after giving birth, helps the flow of milk to the baby, and can also produce a greater sense of calm in mothers.
- Breastfeeding moms have lower risk for Type 2 diabetes, breast and ovarian cancer and postpartum (after delivery) depression.
- Breastfeeding can also be a time and money saver because breast milk is there when you need it.
Barriers to Breastfeeding
Although many expectant mothers say they plan to breastfeed, for some the choice turns out not to be simple for various reasons. They may include:
- Lack of knowledge of breastfeeding techniques
- Little or no family and social support
- Work and time constraints
- Baby does not take to breastfeeding
How Long Should a Woman Breastfeed?
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests breastfeeding for at least a baby’s first year, and then for as long as mother and baby choose. However, mosst women who start out breastfeeding stop after six months. For mothers who have trouble breastfeeding but would like to keep trying, the following resources are available:
- The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, requires most health insurance plans to provide free breastfeeding equipment and counseling for pregnant and nursing women.
- In communities across the country there are breastfeeding centers to help guide mothers through the process. Also, pediatricians can often recommend local resources.
- The National Breastfeeding Helpline is available by calling 1-800-994-9662.
- La Leche League International, in partnership with the CDC, offers online information and a directory of resources nationwide in a variety of languages.
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health has produced an informative and easy to follow guide covering the full range of breastfeeding topics.
It bears repeating, the choice to breastfeed is a very personal one between a mother and her baby. No mother should ever be made to feel guilt or pressure because she chooses to, or is not able or willing to breastfeed.
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