August is National Breastfeeding Month and it’s a good time to remember that breast milk is “the gold standard” for babies and their moms. In fact, there’s nothing like breastfeeding to put babies on the path to good health. And research shows that moms benefit as well.
Yet Georgia continues to lag behind other states when it comes to breastfeeding. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2013 Breastfeeding Report Card shows that only 68 percent of infants born in Georgia are ever breastfed, while the national standard is 77 percent.
Breastfeeding has multiple benefits for infants, including lower risk for ear and respiratory infections, allergic skin disorders, intestinal infections, type 2 diabetes and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends breastfeeding for six months. At 6 months of age, the AAP recommends adding solid foods and continuing with breastfeeding for at least one year. Breastfeeding can continue as long as both the mother and baby wish.
The benefits of breastfeeding extend beyond the time of infancy. Research shows that children who were breastfed are less likely to be overweight adolescents than children who were formula-fed as infants. And, the longer a baby is breastfed, the odds of being an overweight child decrease even more. Throughout childhood, breastfed infants experience higher mental development scores, cognitive scores and higher IQs.
Mom wins, too
Benefits for breastfeeding moms include decreased risk for breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Breastfeeding can also help you lose the pounds you put on during pregnancy.
When you breastfeed, your body releases the hormone oxytocin, which causes the uterus to return to its regular size more quickly; it can also reduce postpartum bleeding.
Then there are the financial benefits of breastfeeding. Formula can cost $4 to $10 per day, depending on the brand, type and amount your baby eats. Breastfeeding moms need, at most, only an extra 400 to 500 calories daily to produce enough milk to for their babies.
It’s convenient, too. No need to get up in the middle of the night to warm a bottle or pack feeding equipment when you leave the house.
Tips for working moms
Here are some suggestions to make breastfeeding easier for working moms:
- Start the day with a long nursing session so your baby is content during the morning rush.
- Find a caregiver near work so you can visit and nurse during your lunch break.
- Buy a reliable, comfortable breast pump.
- Tell your employer about breastfeeding’s benefits. A healthier baby means you miss less work.
- Start to pump before you head back to work, and store the milk in the freezer. You’ll feel better with a backup supply. You can store your milk in special bags. Milk can be stored in a standard freezer for up to six months.
Breastfeeding mothers who have questions can call the 24-hour hotline (912-350-8164) at Memorial University Medical Center to speak with a board-certified lactation consultant. Classes, consultations and pump rentals are also available.
Holly McSpadden is an international board-certified lactation consultant who is the senior lactation consultant at Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah.