October 2, 2018
Clinical Contributors to this Story
Joyce Thompson, MS, RN, IBCLC, LCCE contributes to topics such as Pediatrics, Parenting, Women's Health.
Whether you’re expecting a new baby soon, or you’re thinking about future plans for motherhood, deciding whether or not to breastfeed is an important decision for both you and your baby.
Now legal to breastfeed in public in all 50 states, a noticeable shift has taken place to remove the idea that it is embarrassing or uncomfortable. You can see this in the recent media, praising a model for breastfeeding down the runway, as well as honoring a police officer for springing into action and feeding a hungry baby.
No matter what your decision is, it is your choice. But before you decide, make sure you are informed of the breastfeeding benefits for both you and your baby.
Joyce Thompson, MS, RN, IBCLC, LCCE, the clinical program manager at the Center for Breastfeeding Lactation Services of K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital, shared some key factors to be aware of.
Health Benefits for Mom
- Decreased risk of disease: “One of the most important things for women to know is the health benefits to them for breastfeeding. We talk a lot about the benefits to the baby, but there are so many health benefits for our moms too. To name a few, some of the benefits include a decreased risk for cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer, which can be difficult to diagnose, so reducing your risk is extremely beneficial,” said Thompson.
- Improved healing post-delivery: During pregnancy the uterus expands quite dramatically from its original size – breastfeeding helps promote the release of oxytocin, a hormone that helps stimulate the uterus to contract and return to normal size. It also helps to reduce blood loss.
Health Benefits for Baby
- Nutritional benefits: “A mother’s milk creates the ideal nutrition for her baby. It is the perfect mix of nutrients to support healthy growth, and digestion,” says Thompson. “The antibodies within are key to the baby’s health. The breast milk has antimicrobial properties that artificial milk just cannot have. They help fight off viruses and bacteria.”
- Less infection and disease: Babies who are breastfed have stronger immune systems and experience fewer ear infections, colds, and respiratory illnesses. “Another major consideration is for preterm babies, breastfeeding decreases their chanceof developing necrotizing enterocolitis. This is a devastating complication that effects the GI track of premature infants, and can sometimes be fatal.”
- Fewer hospitalizations and sick care visits: With less infection and disease, babies are likely to have less trips to the hospital or to the doctor, therefore saving new moms both time and money.
- Lower rates of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): Although the cause of SIDS remains unknown, breastfeeding has been shown to lower a baby’s risk.
- Future health and wellness: “Studies show that it decreases the risk of allergies, obesity, asthma, and type 2 diabetes in childhood. It can also have a positive effect on brain development,” noted Thompson.
- Readily available: “Breastmilk is free and readily available. There is no prep time, or need to heat it, it is ready to go,” said Joyce. “This is particularly valuable for women who may not have access to clean water; their milk is always with them.”
- Economically and environmentally conscious: “Breastfeeding is environmentally friendly – decreasing the resources needed for formula production and the amount of waste in landfills. And of course for moms who have plenty of other costs to worry about, it’s free, and they see less medical costs from less time spent needed for medical attention.”
Although breastfeeding is natural, that does not necessarily make it easy. You shouldn’t feel guilty if you ultimately feel that breastfeeding isn’t right for you and your family. But if you decide that you would like to breastfeed and need help, know that there are resources available to assist with any questions or concerns you may have.
“We realized that more and more women were being sent home from the hospital breastfeeding, and there weren’t any resources available to support them, as a result we opened the Center for Breastfeeding in 2013. We look to support moms who have chosen to breastfeed, and help them be successful with their goals,” said Thompson.
The Center for Breastfeeding provides comprehensive outpatient lactation services by International Board Certified Lactation consultants to offer support and expert advice after you go home with your baby. If you have any questions, would like to speak to a lactation nurse, or would like to make an appointment, you can call the Breastfeeding Warmline at 732-776-3329. Additional information can also be found here.
The material provided through Health Hub is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.