Breastfeeding…it can be tough, but oh so worth it! August is National Breastfeeding month and a wonderful time to raise awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding. As a new mom, nearly 16 years ago now, I was fortunate that through my education as a Registered Dietitian, I felt confident in making the decision to breastfeed. The benefits of breastfeeding verse formula feeding for mom and baby are numerous.
According to Dr. Ruth Petersen, director of CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, “Breastfeeding provides unmatched health benefits for babies and mothers. It is the clinical gold standard for infant feeding and nutrition, with breast milk uniquely tailored to meet the health needs of a growing baby. We must do more to create supportive and safe environments for mothers who choose to breastfeed.”
What are some of the benefits that breastfeeding provides to babies?
- Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to bond with your baby.
- Breast milk has all the nutrients babies need to grow and develop; as babies grow, breast milk composition will change to meet the baby’s nutritional needs.
- Breast milk contains antibodies from mom that help babies develop a strong immune system and can protect against allergies and infections.
- Breast fed babies have a lower risk of some illnesses and diseases like asthma, obesity, type 1 diabetes, childhood leukemia, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), respiratory infections, ear infections, and GI upset to name a few.
What are some of the benefits that breastfeeding provides to moms?
- Breastfeeding can provide health benefits to mom by reducing the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
- Breastfeeding is free and convenient; no mixing formula, warming bottles or bottles to clean.
- Breastfeeding can help you return to pre-pregnancy weight quicker, since on average it burns about 500 calories per day!
How long should a mom breastfeed?
The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans [PDF-30.6MB] recommend that infants be exclusively breastfed for about the first 6 months, and then continuing breastfeeding while introducing appropriate complementary foods until your child is 12 months old or older. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization also recommend exclusive breastfeeding for about the first 6 months, with continued breastfeeding along with introducing appropriate complementary foods for up to 2 years of age or longer.
While it’s beneficial to meet these guidelines of exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months, it is important to know that any amount of breast milk is good for your baby’s health and development. Breastfeeding does come with some challenges from time to time and in certain situations it may not be possible. It’s important to reach out for support from your family and healthcare team. If it is not possible to feed your infant breastmilk, infant formula will provide an adequate source of nutrition. As your baby’s diet progresses into solid foods visit Feeding My Baby to help you make informed decisions about what and how to feed your baby. The more you learn about nourishing your baby, the more confident you will be when the time comes and that will make it a positive experience for everyone.
About the Author: Kris Juelfs is an Illinois Extension Nutrition and Wellness Educator serving Madison, Monroe and St. Clair Counties in southern Illinois. She is a Registered Dietitian and her work focuses on helping community members gain the knowledge, skills and tools to live healthier, more nutritious lifestyles. This includes providing programs to youth and adults and answering questions about heart health, diabetes, food safety, food preservation, and food preparation. You can reach Kris at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (618) 939-3434.