It is widespread knowledge that breastfeeding is considered the gold standard for nourishing newborn babies. Through the test of time, breastfeeding has provided optimal nutritional health for babies.
The benefits of breastfeeding extend well beyond basic nutrition to include most of the vitamins and nutrients your baby needs in the first six months to one year of life. Breast milk is packed full of disease-fighting substances that can protect your baby from illness, reduce chances of obesity later in life, lower a baby’s risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and boost your child’s intelligence just to name a few benefits. Breastfed babies are found to have less diarrhea, fewer respiratory infections, and fewer allergies than formula fed babies.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, and continuing for the first year and even beyond if so desired. Scientific studies have shown that breastfeeding for one year is good for mom’s health, too. It can help to burn additional calories to help shed unwanted pregnancy weight gain as well as lower stress levels with the release of oxytocin, a natural hormone that assists with relaxation during breastfeeding. Oxytocin also helps to more quickly shrink the uterus back to its pre-pregnancy size, reducing postpartum bleeding.
Breastfeeding may also reduce your risk of some types of diseases such as breast and ovarian cancer and osteoporosis. As an example, nursing for at least a year appears to have the most protective effect for mom. The breast tissue changes caused by breastfeeding and the fact that lactation suppresses the amount of estrogen your body produces may play vital roles in keeping you cancer-free. It is likely that this estrogen suppression may also have the same effect on ovarian cancer.
There are also benefits to society. Breastfeeding saves on health care costs. Medical care costs are often less for fully breastfed infants compared to those who have never been breastfed at all. The result is fewer sick doctor visits, prescriptions, and hospitalizations. There is also a correlation between breastfeeding and a more productive workforce. Breastfeeding mothers miss less work because their infants are sick less often.
And at a time when being “green” is on everyone’s radar, breastfeeding is best because there is less trash and plastic waste compared to that produced by formula cans and bottle supplies.
During an emergency, breastfeeding can also save lives. This year, World Breastfeeding Week (Aug. 1 to Aug. 7) is themed to build awareness about the benefits of breastfeeding in an emergency situation. Many times during a crisis, there may be no clean drinking water or the ability to sanitize or clean feeding utensils. The disadvantages of formula use during a disaster are that it may not be available or contaminated depending on the type of emergency. If the water supply is contaminated, there may be no method to sterilize the formula, bottles, or nipples. And a lack of electricity will not allow proper refrigeration of opened, prepared formula. Therefore, the cleanest, safest food for an infant is human milk. In addition, there may be orphaned children who may need to be fed, and through a network of lactating mothers, families and colonies supporting each other, these needs can be met. There are also breast milk banks available to help in emergency situations
In recognition of World Breastfeeding Week, celebrated in more than 120 countries, learn all that you can about the benefits of breast milk, and how it is vital to health, even more so in an emergency.
Filed Under: News