Breastfeeding: A Small Moment with Far-Reaching Benefits
By Kim McKechnie, RN, IBCLC, Lactation Coordinator at Northern Westchester Hospital
We know that in most cases “natural” is better, and breastfeeding is no exception. Breastfeeding your baby is the most healthful way to feed and nurture most newborns, and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) backs this contention. The AAP recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life, as well as continued breastfeeding for at least the first year as solid foods are introduced.
Breastfeeding your baby can also lead to broader benefits. Breastfed babies are sick less often than babies who are fed with formula because of the natural antibodies that are passed from a nursing mother to her baby. Breastfeeding protects babies from infections by contributing to their immune system resulting in lower occurrences of conditions such as ear infections, diarrhea, and respiratory infections.
In fact, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that we as a country benefit overall when mothers breastfeed. According to a recent study, if 90 percent of families breastfed exclusively for six months the United states would save about $13 billion per year because medical costs are lower for fully-breastfed infants than for those of never-breastfed babies.
Fewer sick days for babies also means fewer missed days of work for you. Another benefit is a cleaner environment – no plastic refuse and a shallower environmental “footprint.”
Not to be overlooked are the many benefits of breastfeeding for mothers, beginning with postpartum weight loss. It’s easier for a woman who’s gained a reasonable amount of weight during pregnancy to lose that weight more quickly if she breastfeeds.
Women who breastfeed, according to the World Health Organization, lower their risk of both breast and ovarian cancers. Breastfeeding also decreases a woman’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, as well as statistically lessening the likelihood of her developing osteoporosis later in life.
Having a newborn baby in your life can be a bit chaotic at times; fortunately, breastfeeding also provides psychological and emotional benefits which cannot be ignored. The built-in benefit of breastfeeding – some peaceful downtime – can have a restorative and meditative effect on the busy mother of a newborn. Breastfeeding provides the opportunity to peacefully nurture and bond with your baby as he or she feels the beat of your heart and warmth of your skin, and learns the unique sound of your voice.
Breastfeeding’s numerous benefits outweigh some of its initial challenges. At Northern Westchester Hospital, we are committed to helping you achieve breastfeeding success. During your stay, you have access to someone with lactation expertise 24 hour a day, seven days a week. Any time of day – or night – someone can help you.
Breastfeeding is an intimate act of love for both mother and baby, and I feel privileged to be able to witness and help facilitate this beautiful bonding experience.
Editor’s Note: Kim McKechnie, RN, IBCLC, is the Lactation Coordinator at Northern Westchester Hospital