Breastfeeding is the healthy choice for a new beginning.
By the Douglas County Breastfeeding Action Team
Most expectant and new parents are aware that breastfeeding is a significant health and medical choice for both baby and mother. Many parents may feel confused about conflicting breastfeeding advice from well-meaning, but often misinformed family, friends and even health-care professionals. Up-to-date and practical information can eliminate confusion, making the new experience of breastfeeding positive and successful. Below are some concerns expectant and new parents frequently ask representatives of the Breastfeeding Action Team of Douglas County.
``I know the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding but why is it so important?''
Breast milk is often referred to as ``liquid gold'' and recent studies support this description. Research provides the following information about the benefits of breast milk and breastfeeding: Breastfed infants may have as many as 20 percent fewer ear infections in the first year, as compared to formula fed infants. Breast milk provides significant protection against colds, flu and stomach problems and may decrease the risk of developing juvenile diabetes. Breastfeeding for six months or more reduces the development of eczema in the first three years of life and may also prevent allergies.
Research shows that breast milk has a significant impact on enhanced brain and visual development compared to those babies who are artificially (formula) fed. Breastfed infants score slightly higher on intelligence tests. Behavioral disorders of childhood have been shown to statistically and significantly decline with increased duration of breastfeeding.
Mothers benefit from breastfeeding too. Cancer studies show each month of breastfeeding is associated with a 1 percent reduction of overall risk for ovarian cancer. Breast cancer
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in pre-menopausal women is reduced by 11 percent and if breastfeeding continues up to and beyond 24 months, the rate of reduction jumps to 25 percent.
Mothers who breastfeed are pleased to find it easier to shed the weight gained during pregnancy.
Breastfeeding has economic benefits as well. Healthier babies mean fewer days missed from work and lower medical bills. And as much as $855 per year can be saved by not purchasing artificial infant formula.
``My mother and sisters had breastfeeding problems. Will I?''
Lack of confidence is one of the biggest barriers to success. Most mothers know that breast milk is best for babies but often conclude they might not be successful, particularly if a close family member was unsuccessful in her own attempts to breastfeed.
It is very rare that a woman is unable to breastfeed for physical reasons. Knowing that a woman's breasts are specifically designed to feed babies and understanding how the breasts make milk can help overcome any doubts about being able to breastfeed.
Modesty is a common reason women choose not to breastfeed or choose to wean their babies early. Discreet nursing can be easily learned. Just watch or ask another breastfeeding mother. Monthly La Leche League meetings are an excellent place for expectant and new mothers to observe discreet nursing and gain confidence in this new skill.
``I'd like to breastfeed my baby longer than six weeks, but I need to go back to work. Do I have to wean then?''
Many mothers return to work and continue to breastfeed. Breastfeeding a baby while working outside the home helps to maintain a close relationship between mother and baby while providing the benefits of human milk.
Information on expressing and collecting breast milk in the workplace and practical suggestions for working with the baby's caretaker are available from any member of the Breastfeeding Action Team.