Breastfeeding is best for baby

Published Aug 6, 2014 at 5:56 am (Updated Aug 5, 2014 at 9:48 am)

There’s a simple thing that a mother can do to lower her baby’s risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, allergies, asthma, ear infections, respiratory infections and digestive issues. Moreover, this same act has been thought to reduce the risk for diabetes, obesity and possibly even certain cancers (more research is needed to determine for sure).

On the other end of the spectrum, the mother benefits from the act as well. It burns extra calories, which can help her lose pregnancy weight, and it releases the hormone oxytocin, which may reduce uterine bleeding after birth and help the uterus contract to its pre-pregnancy size. It lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. And, it may lower the risk of osteoporosis.

On top of it all, it is all natural and doesn’t cost a thing.

Of course, we are talking about breastfeeding.

Initiated in 2011, August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be breastfed for the first six months of life, and should continue to have breast milk until their first birthday – though, there is nothing wrong with continuing after that milestone.

However, even breastfeeding for three months is better than not at all, and if milk supply is less than what baby needs, there is nothing wrong with supplementing with formula. Any amount of breast milk is better than none.

With laws and policies in place, it’s easy for a mother to return to work and still breastfeed her baby. For example, many insurance companies now provide breast pumps free of charge. Pennsylvania’s Freedom to Breastfeed Act, signed into law in 2007, permits a mother to nurse her child in public, and says that breastfeeding is not a nuisance, indecent exposure, sexual conduct or an obscenity.

The United States Department of Labor has a policy in place that requires employers to provide “reasonable break time for employees to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.” Employers are also required to provide a private place to express the milk, other than a bathroom.

Hospitals have lactation consultants on staff to help mothers learn the ins and outs of breastfeeding, and the La Leche League offers support and information.

While it’s certainly not always easy, and it can be exhausting – not to mention embarrassing, should a mother’s breasts have a mind of their own and leak at the wrong time – the benefits far outweigh the downfalls.

And that makes it all worth it.

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