August is Breastfeeding Month.
Breastfeeding has often been viewed as a personal choice for the mom; however, breastfeeding is a public health issue. The evidence shows that babies that were exclusively breastfed (no other source of nutrition) for 6 months and then continued to breastfeed to at least 1 year of age (with the addition of foods but no formula) have fewer ear infections, diarrhea, respiratory infections, and decreased risk of SIDS as a baby. As a child, they have fewer allergies, less childhood cancers, type I diabetes, dental cavities, and less psychological, learning or behavioral problems. As an adult, they have less risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and breast cancer. Breastfeeding moms benefit as well. Mothers that breastfeed have a decreased risk of ovarian and breast cancer, are more likely to be at a healthy weight, with less postpartum depression.
Breastfeeding also benefits our community. With breastfeeding, there is less waste for our environment in creating, transporting and providing formula for babies.
There is also a huge financial gain for our country. It is estimated that if 90% of women breastfeed exclusively to 6 months, the U.S could save more than $13 billion per year in healthcare and prevent nearly 1,000 infant deaths annually. This directly affects each and every taxpayer.
It is often thought that the decision to breastfeed is completely up to the mother. However, there are many ways that each and every one of us can help support breastfeeding to help each mom feel more empowered to feed her baby the best milk possible…human milk. First, if you know a mom-to-be you can help her to obtain good and accurate information on breastfeeding and encourage her to attend prenatal education to help her prepare for this new baby and new feeding experience. Second, if you are in a public setting and see a woman breastfeeding, you can give her a friendly smile instead of a rude or offended look. If you are employed outside of the home, you can help your employer work towards becoming a “Breastfeeding Friendly Worksite” for moms who are breastfeeding and when going back to work can continue to provide their milk for their baby. We as a culture can help “normalize” breastfeeding by the way we talk and raise our children to understand that breasts were designed to feed babies and are not just sexual in nature. You may even have influence through government policies or hospital delivery policies.
Audrain County Health Department is working to help support breastfeeding throughout the Audrain County Community by helping employers obtain “Breastfeeding Friendly Worksite” status, providing prenatal education, breast pumps available for loan, breastfeeding mom’s support group and lactation consult/support.
It has often been said by those who choose not to breastfeed, “I was not breastfed or did not breastfeed my baby and I or we are just fine.”
However, we are learning that a person’s full potential and future health could be totally maximized by being exclusively breastfed as an infant. Breastfeeding not only saves money for the mom and dad, and even the taxpayer, but it may even save the future health of our children as they grow into the next generation. For more breastfeeding information feel free to contact Audrain County Health Department at 573-581-1332.