In the weeks leading up to the birth of your baby there will be many decisions to make. Who will your pediatrician be? Do you have a name? With so many things to think about there is one choice that more and more women in the U.S are making for their babies: they are deciding to try to breastfeed.
Interestingly, the general public in the United States has struggled, in the past, to support breastfeeding mothers and their infants in the decision to nurse, but more recently have been striving to improve support and offer resources to help you breastfeed for as long as you desire. The US Department of Health and Human Services maintains “…provides science-based, ten-year national objectives for improving the health of all Americans (United States Breastfeeding Committee, 2019). Many of these objectives pertain to maternal child health, and include specific breastfeeding measures.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 74% of U.S. babies have had some breast milk after birth, but that number drops sharply in the months following, with only 14% of babies receiving just breast milk by 6 months of age. Healthy People 2020 goals would like to increase these rates to 81.9% and 25.5%, respectively.
Some of the benefits that breastfeeding confers to you and your baby include:
- Breastfeeding is dynamic, complete nutrition for baby: Easier to digest than synthetic formulas, breast milk even changes in supply, calorie and fat content according to your baby’s growing needs. It is also much easier to digest and reduces your baby’s chances of developing digestive issues like colic and constipation.
- Nursing helps prevent childhood illnesses. Babies who are breastfed are shown to have fewer stomach viruses, respiratory illnesses, ear infections and meningitis compared to formula fed babies.
- Lower risk of SIDS. Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) rates may be reduced by as much as 50% for babies who breastfeed.
- Lower mom’s risk of depression, cancer and stress. Breastfeeding triggers a complex series of hormonal reactions in order for mothers to make milk. When a baby nurses, the brain releases the chemical oxytocin which helps promote relaxation and elevates mood. Oxytocin also helps your uterus contract to help control bleeding after your baby is born. Moms who nurse for several months or up to a year may also lower their risk for breast and ovarian cancer.
At Advantia Health, however, we understand that the decision to breastfeed is a very personal one for most of our patients and their families. Some women struggle with breastmilk supply, latching their baby, or the sheer logistics of pumping, returning to work, and trying to settle into a routine with breastfeeding. Some women have had breast surgeries, others may be on medications which are not considered safe in breastfeeding.
Your providers at Advantia Health practices are ready to discuss these challenges and frustrations with you. We also have lactation consultants who can help you with:
- Pumping questions
- Latch issues
- Supply issues
- Breastfeeding in unique circumstances: (premature babies or twins, for example)
- Getting a pumping schedule and routine established for going back to work.
*In fact, Healthy People 2020 goals also include workplace lactation support. At baseline in 2009, only 25% of US employers had such support; the goal benchmark for 2020 is to increase this to 38% (USBC, 2019).
Breastfeeding is often described as mutually beneficial and rewarding for mothers who choose this method of infant feeding, and who are successful in their endeavors. However, not every mother can breastfeed despite her most ardent desire, and some mothers choose not to breastfeed.
Whatever your choice, know that you are supported at Advantia. If you have any specific questions or concerns about your breastfeeding plans, please ask during your prenatal appointments, or come see a provider postpartum!