Breastmilk provides your baby with the best source of nutrition they can get. However, breastfeeding may not come easily for mom and baby–it takes practice! The key is to do the best you can and get the support you need from healthcare providers trained in breastfeeding support and friends and family. To recognize National Breastfeeding Month, we’re sharing just a few of the many benefits of breastfeeding:
- For Mom: Moms who breastfeed have a lower risk of getting type 2 diabetes, certain types of breast cancer, and ovarian cancer. Breastfeeding can even help moms lose weight and tighten their bellies. Breastfeeding can also be more convenient than formula feeding. For one, you don’t have to worry about the temperature of the milk. There is no need to sterilize bottles or artificial nipples and you don’t have to buy, measure, or mix formula, which can save valuable time. Breastfeeding bonds mom and baby together, helping them form a special relationship.
- For Baby: Breastfed babies are less likely to get ear infections, diarrhea, and vomiting, and they have a lower risk of getting type 2 diabetes, asthma, and becoming obese during childhood. Breastmilk is easier for babies to digest than formula, making breastmilk easier on their bellies. In fact, mothers’ bodies naturally adjust the nutrition content of their breastmilk supplying all the baby needs. The closeness of breastfeeding makes babies feel safe and comforted.
- For Society: Breastfeeding saves babies’ lives. Research shows that if 90% of families exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of a baby’s life, almost 1,000 infant deaths each year could be prevented. Breastfeeding saves the community money as it prevents illness, which reduces healthcare costs. Formula feeding creates waste for the environment (from formula cans and bottle supplies), so breastfeeding can help reduce waste.
Many women pump and store breast milk so they can return to work. Like any other food, it’s important to store pumped breastmilk properly to keep your baby safe. For tips on storing breastmilk properly, visit https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/recommendations/handling_breastmilk.htm.
There are many opportunities for emotional support as well as help with breastfeeding for breastfeeding moms. Using these resources is key to breastfeeding success. Whether you’re a breastfeeding mom or have a friend or family member who is pregnant or has a baby, keep these options in mind:
- Lactation Consultant: International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) are your go-to healthcare providers when it comes to breastfeeding. Lactation consultants are available at hospitals, community health programs like WIC, pediatrician offices, and other locations. Many can even do home visits! Talk to your doctor if you’d like to meet with a lactation consultant.
- WIC & Community Programs: The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (called “WIC”) offers breastfeeding counseling and may be able to provide breast pumps and other supplies. To find your local WIC program, visit https://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/breastfeeding-priority-wic-program.
- Family and Friends: Loved ones can encourage you to breastfeed through all the ups and downs of breastfeeding. They’re the ones there for you when healthcare providers can’t be there (at home in the middle of the night, for example). Family and friends can also offer other help, such as changing the baby, getting the baby ready to be fed, making sure you have enough water to drink and get enough rest, helping around the house, caring for other children at home, and loving and playing with the baby.
- Other Breastfeeding Moms: Other breastfeeding moms can offer advice, support, and encouragement. There are different ways to connect with other breastfeeding moms at breastfeeding support groups. You can talk to your doctor, who may know about a breastfeeding support group at their office or a nearby hospital. Also, you can check Internet websites like the Nursing Mothers Advisory Council and breastfeeeding.org to find a breastfeeding support group near you. Your local La Leche League may offer meetings near you where you can connect with other breastfeeding moms.
- The National Breastfeeding Helpline: You can call 1-800-994-9662 to talk to trained breastfeeding peer counselors who can answer women’s health and breastfeeding questions in English or Spanish. This is a free service and you can call as much as you need!
Breastfeeding is natural and the rewards and benefits of breastfeeding for you and your baby are endless. With the assistance of health care providers, family and loved ones, and other breastfeeding moms, you can get the support to help overcome challenges you may have.