Breastfeeding was a part of my family’s culture. I and my sibling were breastfed babies; I breastfed my child and am an advocate of breastfeeding all babies. Unless of course it’s just not possible. There can be many obstacles, but there are also many sources that offer detailed and practical how-to information and support.
Creating a safe, healthy environment for newborns is a multi-faceted endeavor that should begin before the baby is born. Breast feeding should be an obvious part of this plan but is too often put aside because of lack of support. The need to raise awareness is being highlighted this August during the annual 2022 World Breastfeeding Week campaign, “Step Up for Breastfeeding: Educate and Support.” Its goal is to increase knowledge about the benefits of breastfeeding – for the baby and the mother – and show why breast milk is called ‘liquid gold.’ The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine states that, “A vast body of research has demonstrated significant nutritional, physiological and psychological benefits for both mothers and children that last well beyond infancy.”
Here’s a brief glimpse at some of the reported benefits:
- Breastfeeding protects babies from infections and illnesses that include diarrhea, ear infections and pneumonia.
- Breastfed babies are less likely to develop asthma.
- Children who are breastfed for six months are less likely to become obese.
- Breastfeeding also reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
- Mothers who breastfeed have a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancers, lower anxiety, increased bone strength and decreased risk of heart disease.
- Families who follow optimal breastfeeding practices can save between $1,200–$1,500 in expenditures on infant formula in the first year alone.
- A study published last year in the journal Pediatrics estimated that if 90% of U.S. families followed guidelines to breastfeed exclusively for six months, the U.S. would annually save $13 billion from reduced medical and other costs.
- For both employers and employees, better infant health means fewer health insurance claims, less employee time off to care for sick children, and higher productivity.
So, like liquid gold, the value of breastfeeding is priceless.
Health insurance companies are famously interested in saving money and many have employee maternity and lactation programs that can be put into place before the baby is born. Check with yours to see what they offer. This should be an important feature when deciding which insurance company best suits your needs. Above all, long-term breastfeeding success requires a strong support system from everyone in our communities – spouses, families, childcare, employers, healthcare providers, schools, churches and businesses.
Let’s not ignore the beautiful, exquisite relationship of trust and joy that both the mother and child experience while nursing. Those quiet moments when your baby feels protected and loved and is in total bliss while being held and fed by its mother, the unrestricted joy that flows between the two during these precious moments can not be put into words. The tactile comfort of the mother’s warmth and skin for the baby are difficult to replicate with a bottle and a rubber/silicon nipple. I hold the memory of this experience in my heart and know that this creates an undeniable bond that will be difficult to break, especially when times are hard.
https://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/ – “Breastfeeding is key to sustainable development strategies post-pandemic, as it improves nutrition, ensures food security and reduces inequalities between and within countries.”