Mamas on Bedrest: Should Breastfeeding be the Law?

August 4th, 2010

Mamas around the US are weighing in on the “Breastfeeding should be mandatory”statement declared by supermodel Gisele Bundchen. Mamas on Bedrest, Should Breastfeeding be the law?

There are many reasons that mothers should be encouraged to breastfeed their babies. First of all, breastmilk contains antibodies that are protective to the newborn. We all know that a newborn has a very sensitive, immature immune system. Breast Milk contains many of the antibodies and protective agents from the mother that protect the newborn from illness and disease until its own immune system becomes more competent. Research has shown that babies who breastfeed exclusively for at least 6 months have a lower incidence of allergies, ear infections and other childhood illnesses. The following are many of the cited health benefits (from www.womenshealth.gov and www.aap.org):

  • Have fewer incidences of vomiting and diarrhea in the US (20-35 million episodes of diarrhea occur in children under the age of 5, resulting in over 200,000 hospitalizations and 400-500 deaths in the U.S.)
  • Protection against gastroenteritis, necrotizing entercolitis
  • Reduced risk of chronic constipation, colic, and other stomach upsets
  • Reduced risk of childhood diabetes
  • Protection against ear infections, respiratory illnesses, pneumonia, bronchitis, kidney infections, septicemia (blood poisoning),
  • Protection against allergies, asthma, eczema, and severity of allergic disease
  • Reduced risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) Statistics reveal that for every 87 deaths from SIDS, only 3 are breastfed.
  • Protection against meningitis, botulism, childhood lymphoma, crohn’s disease and ulcerative entercolits
  • Decreased risk of tooth decay (cavities)
  • Nursing promotes facial structure development, enhanced speech,  straighter teeth and enhances vision.
  • Breastfed infants develop higher IQ’s, and have improved brain and nervous system development; IQ advantage of 10-12 points studied at ages 8, 12, and 18.  (Breastfeeding is considered the 4th trimester in brain growth and development…there are specific proteins in human milk that promote brain development))
  • Reduced risk of heart disease later in life
  • Increased bone density
  • Breastfeeding plays an important role in the emotional and spiritual  development of babies
  • Breastfed babies enjoy a special warm bonding and emotional relationship with their mothers    
  • Antibody response to vaccines are higher
  • Are hospitalized 10 times less than formula fed infants in the first year of life
  • The colostrum (first milk) coats the GI tract, preventing harmful bacteria and allergy -triggering protein molecules from crossing into baby’s blood
  • Decreased risk for vitamin E and Iron deficiency anemia
  • Decreased risk for acute appendicitis, rheumatoid arthritis, inguinal hernia, pyloric stenosis
  • There are factors in human milk that destroy E coli, salmonella, shigella, streptococcus, pneumococcus….and many others
  • Less risk of childhood obesity
  • Breastmilk adapts to meet the nutritional needs of the nursing child. The initial colostrum that feeds a newborn is dramatically different from the mature breast milk that nourishes a nursing toddler. Yet at each stage, breast milk is just the right composition of protein, carbohydrates, fats and water needed to meet the nutritional needs of the nursing child. Breast Milk also has enzymes that make it easier to digest so that there is little to no stomach upset in the child.

    And one can’t deny the economics of breastfeeding. Breast Milk is free. It is always ready, no mixing necessary and it is always the right temperature. Some breastfeeding advocates has gone so far as to say that low income women should be forced to breastfeed. Low income, less educated women are less likely than women of higher economic and educational status to breastfeed. Their children are also more likely to have frequent ear infections, allergies, asthma and other childhood illnesses. Proponents state that educating and encouraging lower income and less educated women to breastfeed their babies could reduce healthcare costs and improve the long term health, intelligence and well-being of lower income children. (There is currently no data to support these claims)

    But opponents of mandatory breastfeeding state that breastfeeding is not for every mom. Many women cite pain, inability to produce sufficient quantities of milk, lack of support for breastfeeding amongst their famiies and friends, work schedules and feeling embarrassed while nursing as reasons they did not breastfeed for very long or at all. Still, breastfeeding has many benefits for mama as well including:

    • Reduced risk of breast, ovarian, cervical, and endometrial cancers
    • Reduced risk of anemia
    • Protection against osteoporosis and hip fracture in later life
    • Reduced risk of mortality for women with rheumatoid arthritis has bee associated with total time of lactation
    • Helps mother’s body return to its pre-pregnancy state faster-promotes weigh loss; 1/2 of calories needed to make milk is pulled from fat stores
    • Helps delay return of fertility and to space subsequent pregnancies
    • Moms miss less time from work due to child related illnesses
    • Helps the uterus contract after birth to control postpartum bleeding

     And althoug it is not listed here, breastfeeding has been linked to reduction in post partum depression. (Read our previous blog posts -April and May 2010-on the topic!)

    US culture does not support breastfeeding as evidenced by restaurants and other public establishments banning breastfeeding or banishing breastfeeding mothers to restrooms to feed their babies. Breastfeeding mothers have had to file lawsuits to be able to breastfeed their babies or to have breastfeeding/breast pumping areas available in their workplace. The US’s lack of paid maternity leave makes it nearly impossible for new mothers to establish breastfeeding. When faced with the choice of staying home to breastfeed and/or adjusting their work environments or schedules in order to breastfeed, many women are not only unwilling but are also unable to make such concessions. Many women say they won’t have a job to come back to and can’t put their entire family’s security in jeopardy.

    The breastfeeding debate will wage on and every mama will have to decide for herself what is the best method of feeding her baby. Since August is World Breastfeeding Month,  Mamas on Bedrest, take this time on bedrest to consider what is the best method for you to feed your baby and if it is breastfeeding, gather your resources and support now. Mamas on Bedrest & Beyond is pleased to offer several resources for breastfeeding mamas on our website as well as in our Amazon.com store.

    How are you planning to feed your baby? Share your comments with us below.

    If we can be of assistance, don’t hesitate to contact us at info@mamasonbedrest.com

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    One response to “Mamas on Bedrest: Should Breastfeeding be the Law?”

    1. Roselee Woodrich says:

      wonderful mate.

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