August is recognized across America as National Breastfeeding Month. Throughout the month, people around the world bring awareness to celebrate the benefits of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is proven to save lives by protecting babies from life-threatening infections and illnesses.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, with continuation for one year or longer as mutually desired by the infant and mother. However, despite these recommendations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that only one in four infants are exclusively breastfed. Raising awareness for the benefits both to mother and baby is the focus of National Breastfeeding Month.
Breast milk is nature’s perfect food. It is loaded with the correct combination of nutrients, immunity-boosting antibodies and healthy enzymes that protect babies from a whole host of problems. Research shows that breast milk offers boosted protection and helps lower the risk for many health conditions such as:
Asthma, childhood obesity, ear infections, eczema, diarrhea and vomiting, respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, necrotizing enterocolitis ( a disease affecting the gastrointestinal tract of premature babies), diabetes, lymphoma, leukemia, and Hodgkin’s disease. Breastfed infants are generally sick less often, which means parents have less missed time from work. Breastfeeding is also convenient and cost-efficient since there are no costs associated with formula, bottles and nipples and no worries as to whether everything is sterilized properly or if formula is mixed correctly. Breastfeeding also creates a special bond between mother and baby. The close physical contact makes babies feel more secure, warm and comforted.
Breastfeeding is mutually beneficial for mom as well. Breastfeeding triggers the release of oxytocin that causes the uterus to contract and decreases the amount of bleeding after giving birth. It has also been shown to lower the risk of breast and ovarian cancers, high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Breastfeeding also burns up to 500 extra calories a day, often helping mom to lose post-pregnancy weight easier.
If you are pregnant or have a newborn, speak to your healthcare provider or pediatrician about whether breastfeeding is right for you. If you choose to breastfeed, Henry County Medical Center offers breastfeeding classes at 10 a.m. every Wednesday. These classes are led by Angie Natero, RN, a board-certified lactation consultant with Henry County Medical Center Women’s Center.
Every session focuses on topics relating to breastfeeding and are open to the needs of participants. For more information about breastfeeding or breastfeeding classes at HCMC, call the HCMC Women’s Center at 644-8521 or go to www.hcmc-tn.org.
LORI STAMBAUGH is the community nurse educator at Henry County Medical Center. A registered nurse, she has a bachelor’s degree in nursing.