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Breastfed Babies Earn a Celebrated Status
| In the park, at the mall, dressed in Army fatigues -- breastfeeding moms can create a stir and provoke spirited discussions as Americans wrestle with whether breastfeeding a baby should be a private or public activity. |
Regardless of differing opinions about where breastfeeding is appropriate, medical evidence proves that breastfeeding offers significant health benefits for both babies and mothers. In addition to health benefits, breastfeeding presents financial benefits as well; the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that breastfeeding saves families an average of $800 per year on formula costs.
And while the advantages of breastfeeding ranges far and wide, not every woman can or will choose to breastfeed. Breastfeeding moms face challenges with time commitments when they return to work.
Paulette Meister, RN and Certified Lactation Counselor in the CRH Obstetrics Department
| Breastfeeding moms have to watch their caffeine, nicotine and alcohol intake, since these can affect the milk that baby will be ingesting. And breastfeeding may be difficult for some women who have had breast surgeries and unsafe for some women with certain medical conditions or taking certain medications. |
"Almost 75 percent of babies in America begin their lives as a breastfed baby," says Paulette Meister, RN, CLC at Calais Regional Hospital. "However, by the time they're six months old, only about 15 percent are still receiving nourishment exclusively from their mothers."
While commercially produced formula is considered an alternative to breastfeeding, recent research has concluded that powdered formula is not considered a sterile product and if not properly prepared can cause illness in babies due to three different bacteria found in powdered formula. They are chron bacteria, enterobacter sakazaski and salmonella.
Medical evidence proves that breastfeeding offers significant health benefits for both babies and mothers. Mother’s milk lowers a baby’s risk of infections and illnesses, including childhood leukemia, diarrhea, ear infections, diabetes and pneumonia. Exclusively breastfeeding at one month of age reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome by 50% and babies who are breastfed are less likely to become obese and develop asthma. The practice also provides health benefits for mothers, including a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. The health benefits accrue to women who breastfeed for a minimum of six months and improve the longer breastfeeding continues.
"Breastfeeding’s economic benefits are substantial," says Donna Wood, Director of Clinical Operations, Quorum Health Resources. "A study in the journal Pediatrics estimated that if mothers’ breastfed their babies for six months it would save the nation $13 billion per year in healthcare costs related to disease.” Doctors recommend breastfeeding for one to two years and medical experts suggest that babies should have no other food source than human milk for the first six months of life. The month of August marks the United States Breastfeeding Committee’s (USBC’s) National Breastfeeding Month.
The USBC says that these steps can help improve breastfeeding rates:
· Communities should offer programs to provide women with access to breastfeeding support and counseling from peer mothers
· Hospitals and other healthcare providers should offer education and counseling on breastfeeding
· Healthcare providers should be properly trained to care for breastfeeding mothers and babies and should provide education to pregnant patients
In an age when the choices for baby food fill the grocery store shelves, breastfeeding advocates say mother's milk is more convenient, makes babies and mothers healthier and costs nothing. As education and support for breastfeeding becomes more widely available, more women and infants may be able to capture these health and economic benefits.
To learn more about the health benefits of breastfeeding please visit http://www.nrdc.org/breastmilk/benefits.asp.
This article provided courtesy of Paulette Meister, RN, CLC, Calais Regional Hospital Obstetrics Department.