Breastfeeding is a personal and important decision for parents to make. Breast milk is the ideal source of nourishment for babies. It is exquisitely tailored to meet all of the nutritional needs of newborns. However, not all mothers, especially American mothers, choose to breastfeed.
The majority of new mothers today are physically able to breastfeed but less than 17% of mothers in the U.S. choose to breastfeed exclusively for at least six months. There are many reasons why this is the case but one of the main reasons is cost. The U.S. is one of few developed countries that does not require paid maternity leave. This makes formula a necessary convenience for many mothers who must return to work as soon as possible after having a child. When mothers do choose to breastfeed, there are many advantages both for their infants and themselves.
How babies can benefit from breastfeeding:
• Breast milk contains substances that prevent harmful bacteria from growing in the intestines. Consequently, babies who are breastfed experience less diarrhea, constipation and spitting up.
• Breast milk offers the perfect mixture of vitamins, protein and fat and is easier for babies to digest.
• Breastfed babies have a decreased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
• The antibodies in breast milk help to lower the risk of developing respiratory, urinary, ear and other infections. It also decreases the severity of those infections.
• Breastfed babies are less likely to suffer from childhood cancers, allergies, obesity, asthma, diabetes, eczema, and chronic bowel diseases.
• Breastfeeding enhances brain development. Research has shown that breastfed children have more advanced visual development and visual acuity.
• Breastfed babies tend to be leaner than formula-fed infants.
Benefits into adulthood:
• Individuals who were breastfed as babies have lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
• Breastfed babies are less likely to develop ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and heart disease later in life.
• Studies show that former breastfed children are less likely to battle weight problems as teens, the longer they were nursed the better.
• Breastfeeding has even been linked to higher IQ scores.
Breastfeeding is not only good for infants, it can be beneficial for mother as well. Some of the benefits specifically for the mother include:
• Hormones from breastfeeding can help calm the mother and connect her with her baby.
• Breastfeeding can lower the risk of breast and ovarian cancer for mothers.
• It can decrease the risk of osteoporosis, diabetes and both heart and blood vessel disease.
• Breastfeeding can help women lose weight gained during pregnancy.
• Breastfeeding is easier and cheaper than buying baby formula. Breast milk is always sterile, readily available and does not need to be mixed, boiled or warmed up. There is no need to use or wash baby bottles.
• Breastfeeding is more comforting for the baby which can mean a happier baby and less crying.
• Mothers who breastfeed experience less postpartum bleeding due to the release of the hormone oxytocin which also helps the uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size.
• Breastfeeding can lower the risk of postpartum depression for mothers.
• Studies have found that breastfeeding may reduce the risk of mothers developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
• Exclusive breast feeding can provide a natural form of birth control and delay the return of the mother’s menstrual period for up to six months after birth, when the baby is being breastfed day and night.
The Labor and Delivery Unit at OakBend Medical Center is focused on providing you and your baby the safest birth possible. Their spacious private labor and delivery, and recovery suites feel more like home than a hospital. The highly-trained doctors, nurses and staff offer the expertise you need with more than 1200 babies delivered each year. To schedule a tour or for more information please call 281-341-3085. To see a virtual tour of the hospital please click here.
OakBend Medical Center offers a free breastfeeding and prenatal class to new mothers throughout the greater Houston area. Classes are held every third Saturday of each month. For more information please click here.