Mamas on Bedrest: (Breast) Milk-It Does a Body Good!

August 4th, 2015

wbw2015-logo-m2Hello Mamas!

It’s August and that means it’s National Breastfeeding Month here in the United States, and August 1-7, 2015 is World Breastfeeding Week! There is a lot of hubbub about breastfeeding in the US news. Advocates encourage women to reap the benefits of breastfeeding for themselves and their babies, while those less “enthusiastic” about public breastfeeding press for a more austere approach to this timeless practice.

Breastfeeding is a completely natural event and most all animal species breastfeed their young. Mamas of most species will breastfeed their young until the young are mature enough to eat adult food, then breastfeeding stops and the offspring eats with the rest of the pack/herd. Animals get everything nutrient and immune defense they need from their mamas.

Young animals do have an advantage over human infants, though. While most young animals will become mature enough to stop nursing in a matter of months, human infants, if nursed to the extent that nature intended, would nurse for up to 5 years! So I understand it when some mamas say that they don’t want to nurse that long. Breastmilk is a remarkable substance. When a mama breastfeeds, her body miraculously creates breastmilk with just the right nutrient balance, just the right consistency and just the right amount for the growing infant. In fact, as the infant grows, the consistency, composition and amount of breastmilk changes to meet the needs of the growing infant. And while developing the skill and finesse needed to breastfeed with ease does often take some practice, once mastered, mama and baby are free to go without the hassle of worrying about carrying bottles, formula, or worrying about keeping the breastmilk fresh or warming it up for baby to drink.

So when women tell me that they don’t want to breastfeed, I have to admit, I am always a bit taken aback; They want to forgo all those nutrients, all that convenience, all the immune system and developmental benefits…? But we all have to remember, It is a mama’s right to decide what is the best way for her to feed her baby. Yet it is my sincere hope that every woman will at least attempt to breastfeed her infant-even if only for a few weeks-in order to give her baby this most beneficial nourishment.

Why am I such a strong proponent of breastfeeding? Because of its benefits for both mamas and babies.

Research suggests that breastfed babies have lower risks of:

  • Asthma
  • Childhood leukemia
  • Childhood obesity
  • Ear infections
  • Eczema (atopic dermatitis)
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Lower respiratory infections
  • Necrotizing (nek-roh-TEYE-zing) enterocolitis (en-TUR-oh-coh-lyt-iss), a disease that affects the gastrointestinal tract in pre-term infants
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • Type 2 diabetes

But the benefits don’t stop there. Breastfeeding also has significant benefits for mamas! Breastfeeding leads to a lower risks of :

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Certain types of breast cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • In some women, breastfeeding speeds pregnancy weight loss
  • Breastfeeding has been associated with reduced rates of Post Partum Depression

While almost all research sources, The American Academy of Pediatrics, The American Academy of Family Practice, The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The World Health Organization and many other national and international organizations recommend breastfeeding exclusively for at least 6 months, but preferably for one year, again, every woman has to make the decision that is best for her and her baby. So that women can make informed decisions, here are some resources about breastfeeding.

Resources

La Leche League

The CDC Guide to Strategies to Support Breastfeeding Mothers and Babies

WomensHealth.gov

The American Academy of Pediatrics

The American Academy of Family Practice

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