Local Limelight: Weeklyish Articles Of Interest
10 Great Reasons to Breastfeed Your Baby
One hundred years ago, most babies in the United States were breastfed. Those that were not were very likely to get sick or die. Since then artificial infant milk (formula) has been developed, birth practices have changed, and many mothers go to work outside the home soon after having a baby. As a result, some of our parents and grandparents were not encouraged to breastfeed, or were actively discouraged, and could not pass those skills on to the next generation. As a society, we have forgotten how to breastfeed. We invite you to join families that are rediscovering breastfeeding.
Why is breastfeeding so important? There are many reasons!
1) Breastmilk changes to meet your child’s changing needs! Breastmilk is a living substance, tailored for each baby. What's more, a woman’s milk changes during each feeding, and day to day, as her child changes. The milk a mother makes for a baby born early is different than the milk a mother makes for a full-term baby or an older baby. Breastfeeding offers advantages that cannot be duplicated by any other form of feeding.
2) Your milk is designed for your baby. Breastfed babies receive the perfect food the way human infants were designed to be fed. Humans are mammals, and each mammal makes milk that is tailored to meet the changing nutritional and immunological needs of its young. Species-specific milk optimizes health and survival. Animal experts know that a baby mammal who receives its mother’s milk is much more likely to survive and be healthy than one who receives a replacement formula. Humans are no different! Breast milk contains at least 100 currently known ingredients not found in artificial formula.
3) Breastfed babies optimize their health potential! This results in healthy babies who become healthy adults. Experts believe that when newborns receive breast milk it may help them digest food properly for the rest of their lives. The unique properties of breastmilk support normal child development, including good vision and intelligence. A mother makes antibodies (cells that fight germs) in response to new germs in her environment. Her breastmilk delivers those antibodies to the baby, providing exactly the right protection. This changing nature of human milk makes it impossible to replicate with any artificial infant milk.
4) Breastfeeding helps mothers optimize their health potential too! Because breastfeeding is what women’s bodies were designed to do, breastfeeding helps a mother recover from pregnancy and stay healthy as she ages. Women who don’t breastfeed are at higher risk for ovarian and pre-menopausal breast cancers, osteoporosis, postpartum bleeding, obesity, and postpartum anxiety than mothers who breastfeed.
5) Breastfeeding is easier than the alternatives! While it may take time and effort to learn how to breastfeed, breastfeeding becomes easier with experience. A breastfed baby’s food requires no preparation. Unlike formula, breastmilk from the source is always at the perfect temperature and doesn’t spoil. As an additional bonus, the containers are completely portable and they double as comfortably soft pillows for your baby!
6) Infants who are not breastfed are at greater risk for illness in both childhood and adulthood. Not only does breastfeeding optimize health, but babies who are not breastfed are at significantly higher risk for a host of diseases and conditions, several of which persist into adulthood. Artificially fed babies are at higher risk of Type 1 Diabetes, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), infections, several childhood cancers, asthma, eczema, obesity, and dental/orthodontic problems. In addition to the risks to full term babies, premature infants who are not fed human milk have significantly longer hospital stays, average 8-15 IQ points lower than breastfed babies, and are at increased risk of life-threatening gastrointestinal disease, pneumonia, and other serious illnesses.
7) Breastfeeding helps the environment, the economy, and society. The benefits of breastfeeding trickle down to society at large. Less illness means lower health care costs and fewer sick days. In addition, formula is very costly to produce, consuming energy, and requiring packaging and packaging disposal. It is estimated that 3.6-7 billion excess dollars are spent every year on conditions and diseases that are preventable by breastfeeding.
8) Breastmilk is safe, clean, fresh, available, and the most nutritious option for the lowest cost. Formula is a manufactured food containing chemicals, flavorings, vitamins and proteins. The complex processes required to convert these ingredients into food that is digestible by an infant makes formula vulnerable to contamination by bacteria, chemicals, and foreign substances. Between 1982 and 1994, there were twenty-two different recalls of infant formula in the U.S. because of health and safety problems. Seven of these recalls were classified "Class I" - potentially life threatening.
9) Breastfeeding today helps reclaim the art of breastfeeding for our children tomorrow! Breastfeeding is a learned art as well as a science. The more mothers breastfeed their babies, the sooner breastfeeding will return to its rightful place as the normal and expected way to feed human infants. Children are more likely to become breastfeeding parents when they learn about breastfeeding at their mother’s knee. As more families breastfeed, health care providers and employers will offer better support to prevent and overcome breastfeeding challenges. Eventually artificial formula will return to its intended role as a human milk substitute to be used only when mother’s milk is not available.
10) Families who make informed choices about breastfeeding feel better about their feeding decisions. Families who learn about breastfeeding and receive effective lactation support are more likely to be successful at breastfeeding. If breastfeeding challenges occur, they can make informed choices. These families know they have done the best they could for their babies. When families are not given accurate information and good lactation support, they often feel regret, and anger at the health care system or society that withheld the information and support they needed to make a truly informed decision.
Remember, babies are born to breastfeed, and mothers are meant to nurse. Most breastfeeding challenges can be overcome with the right help. Disappointment, surprise, guilt, pride, grief, and joy are emotions every parent experiences regardless of how a new baby is fed. Don’t let artificial infant milk companies manipulate your feeding decisions. Recognize artificial infant milk for the substitute that it is, and use it only when mother’s milk is truly not available. Help reclaim breastfeeding for all the children to come!
Find out more about lactation services at Zenana Spa & Wellness Center.
Written by Lyla Wolfenstein, B.S., IBCLC and Dixie Whetsell, M.S., IBCLC
Copyright 2004 Please do not reproduce without authors’ permission.
1. United States Breastfeeding Committee. Benefits of Breastfeeding [issue paper]. Raleigh, NC: United States Breastfeeding Committee; 2002
2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. HHS Blueprint for Action on Breastfeeding Washington, D.C. U.S. Department of Health and Human Service, Office on Women’s Health, 2000.