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WHY BREASTFEEDING IS IMPORTANT
I love helping moms breastfeed. While breastfeeding is natural, it doesn’t always come naturally.
Sometimes it comes easily.
Sometimes it can be challenging.
When breastfeeding is hard it can help to keep going when you know why breastfeeding is important.
Most moms don’t get enough support when breastfeeding is hard.
Moms get advice and information from family and friends, and Facebook groups. They may take their questions and concerns to Google.
All the different opinions can make your head spin.
After reading this you will know some of the most important reasons breastfeeding is important.
WHY I DON’T TALK ABOUT THE BENEFITS OF BREASTFEEDING
Breast if best. How many times have you heard that?
What would you say if I told you that breastfeeding has no benefits? (Did I just hear you gasp in surprise?)
Stay with me on this one.
When someone talks about something having benefits, they are referencing it to what is the norm. In this case, that reference is usually to formula. However, formula is not the norm.
BREASTFEEDING IS NORMAL
Think of some other things that are similar in terms of what is seen as best, or better or risky.
Smoking is risky. We don’t say, “Not smoking has benefits.”
Breastfeeding is normal.
Your baby’s body is born expecting to receive breast milk. Not receiving it is not normal.
Eating healthy is important. We don’t say, “Not eating fast food has benefits.”
Breathing air is normal. We don’t say, “Breathing air is best.”
Changing how we talk about breastfeeding is the first step in changing how we think about breastfeeding.
We need to start thinking of breastfeeding as normal.
It’s not simply a choice a mother makes about how to feed her baby. It is so much more than that.
THE BEST –
NOT GOOD OR BAD
If breast is best, does that make formula the worst?
The reality is that some babies will need formula, for a variety of reasons. Some babies will be fortunate enough to receive donor milk if they need to be supplemented.
Donor milk is a better option than formula. However, even when it is an option, for most parents it is going to be cost-prohibitive in the long term.
Commercial formula is required to meet certain guidelines for ingredients and safety. It’s not the worst. Not feeding a baby enough food would be the worst.
Breastfeeding has enormous value. It makes a difference in a baby’s health, both in the short term and long term.
Breastfeeding is worth working for, even when it is hard.
THE PROBLEM WITH BREASTFEEDING
In the United States more babies are starting out life being breastfed (Source).
While that is encouraging, most babies are not being exclusively breastfed or breastfed for as long as is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
The AAP recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and continued breastfeeding with the addition of complementary foods (aka solids) until at least the first birthday (Source).
The WHO recommends breastfeeding for at least two years (Source).
There is a lot of speculation about why babies are not being breastfed for as long as is recommended.
COMMON REASONS MOMS STOP BREASTFEEDING
Some of the most common reasons given for stopping breastfeeding before a mom intended to or it is recommended include:
- Nipple pain
- The belief or concern that they don’t have enough milk
- Fatigue and the belief that formula feeding will change that.
- Difficulty establishing direct breastfeeding (as opposed to breast milk feeding) and mom does not want to exclusively pump and bottle feed.
- Returning to work can present enormous challenges for some moms in their desire to continue breastfeeding.
- Related Posts
- Exclusive Pumping – Everything You Need To Consider
- Epic Guide – Everything You Need To Know About Breastfeeding and Returning To Work
Clearly, saying to a mom who is struggling with any of these issues, “breast is best”, or “breastfeeding is normal,” is probably not going to be enough to help her through those difficult times or a crisis of confidence.
These moms need help. They also need to know why it is important that they try to work through issues that may come up. Issues that make them think , “Is this worth it?” or, “Maybe I have done this long enough” or, “It’s just too hard and I’m ready to stop”.
How long a mom works at breastfeeding is a personal decision and one that should be respected and not judged.
REASONS WHY BREASTFEEDING IS IMPORTANT
If you are one of those mothers, these are some of the compelling reasons you should do what you need to do to get through those challenging times.
Breastfeeding makes a difference in the health of babies. Some outcomes are short-term, some are life long.
Some people love breastfeeding, some people can take it or leave it, and some people actually hate it. None of those feelings change the effect that breastfeeding has on a baby’s health.
BREASTFEEDING HEALTH BENEFITS FOR BABY
Breastfeeding makes a difference in the outcomes of many diseases and disorders (Source).
- Respiratory tract infections and ear infections
- Gastrointestinal tract infections
- Allergic Diseases
- Celiac Disease
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Childhood Leukemia
- Childhood Lymphoma
And the big ones:
- Infant Mortality
The impact that breastfeeding has on these outcomes has been well studied.Don’t let anyone tell you differently.
A difference in the outcomes doesn’t mean these illnesses never happen to a breastfed baby. It means there is a difference in how often these things happen to breastfed babies as compared to formula or mixed-fed babies.
A difference in outcomes also means how severe these diseases and disorders can be.
The research has shown that formula fed and mixed-fed babies experience these dieseases and conditions more often and more severely than breastfed babies do.
Exclusive breastfeeding at the breast is going to result in the best outcomes.
It’s also important to know that any breastfeeding or breastmilk is better than none at all. The more, the better.
If you are experiencing breastfeedingdifficulties that are making you want to stop, the most important thing to do is get help. A lactation consultant is usually the best qualified to provide that help.
If you can’t get help soon enough, you can always talk to someone, and take a break and pump so that you continue to support your milk supply.
BREASTFEEDING BENEFITS FOR MOM
Breastfeeding is not just important for babies. It helps mom stay her healthiest as well.
Women who breastfeed experience many positive effects on their short-term and long-term health (Source).
- Less blood loss postpartum
- Uterus gets back to its pre-pregnant shape more quickly
- Can provide natural birth-control
- Decreased incidence of postpartum depression
- Helps with postpartum weight loss
- Lower rates of rheumatoid arthritis
- Decreased rates of cardiovasular disease
- Lower risk of breast cancer
- Lower risk of ovarian cancer
ECONOMIC BENEFITS OF BREASTFEEDING
One study showed that if 90% of moms in the US breastfed exclusively for six months it would result in a savings of $13 billion (Source). Yes, billion.
That study was done in 2010, so if you consider inflation it is certainly more today.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON WHY BREASTFEEDING IS IMPORTANT
There are other things that are valuable about breastmilk and breastfeeding. I don’t want to give a long list though. I want to give you the really important ones. These are the ones that can make a difference in motivation to most people.
The other important thing to remember is that breastfeeding is not an “all or nothing” deal. Any amount of breastmilk is valuable.
Moms have taught me that no one can, or should tell a mother how much is enough to keep working on it.
However, even the most dedicated mother may sometimes have to stop breastfeeding. There may be a medical reason. Or, her breastfeeding difficulties may have taken her to a dark and scary place and her mental health is truly at risk. This sometimes happens. It’s important to get help if you feel that is happening to you.
Breastfeeding is important.
Breastfeeding is normal.
WHY BREASTFEEDING IS IMPORTANT
Andrea Tran RN, MA, IBCLC
Andrea has been working with new families as an RN for over 35 years and a Lactation Consultant for over 25 years.
She has her MA in Health and Wellness with a focus in Lactation.