If you’re a brand new mom or are getting ready to be one, you probably have a lot of questions about breastfeeding. You might be wondering whether breastfeeding or formula is the right way to go, or you’re simply wondering where you can find resources for breastfeeding near you. Fortunately, it’s National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, so we’re breaking it all down. Here’s what you need to know.
Breastfeeding Has so Many Benefits for Babies
Although great strides have been made to make infant formula as nutritious and healthful as possible over the past several decades, there’s no question in the medical community that breast milk provides the greatest benefit to babies and their mothers.
Here’s what Dr. Ruth Peterson of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had to say about breastfeeding:
“It is the clinical gold standard for infant feeding and nutrition, with breast milk uniquely tailored to meet the health needs of a growing baby.”
Breast milk is such a good source of nutrients that breastfeeding has been found to reduce the risk of the following conditions among infants:
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Ear and Respiratory Infections
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
- Gastrointestinal Infections
- Necrotizing Enterocolitis
It Also Benefits Mothers, Too
One lesser-known fact about breastfeeding is that it can also have potentially beneficial health benefits for nursing mothers.
The American Institute for Cancer Research notes that breastfeeding can reduce the risk of pre- and post-menopausal breast cancers. And it’s also been linked to a reduced risk of the following conditions:
- High Blood Pressure
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Breast Cancer
Studies have also shown that breastfeeding for at least three months can help women lose weight after giving birth.
Only 25 Percent of Infants Are Breastfed According to Recommendations
While the case for breastfeeding is a strong one, the CDC estimates that just one in four infants are exclusively breastfed (i.e., breastfeeding without supplemental infant formula) through six months after birth — the time frame recommended by the World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics.
Although breastfeeding has grown in popularity significantly since the 1990s, it’s clear that many babies still aren’t being breastfed or aren’t being breastfed for long enough. This trend has especially affected black infants, whom the CDC says are 21% less likely to be breastfed at all.
Many Mothers Stop Breastfeeding for a Variety of Reasons
There’s no question that moms just want to do what’s best for their children and their family, so the reasons why they don’t start breastfeeding or don’t continue doing it for the recommended amount of time are important to understand.
It’s estimated that 60% of mothers stop breastfeeding before they planned to, and these are a few of the most common reasons why:
- Issues with Lactation and Latching
- Nutrition and Weight Concerns
- Unsupportive Work Policies
- Lack of Support from Family
- Didn’t Feel Aligned with Cultural Norms
With these things in mind, it’s essential for communities and medical professionals to continue supporting mothers who breastfeed by breaking the stigma or making education a top priority for new moms. And, that’s why University of Maryland (UM) Charles Regional Medical Center regularly hosts breastfeeding support groups. These free support groups are facilitated by a lactation consultant who can answer nursing moms’ questions and concerns. Visit our classes and events calendar to find out when this group meets next.
Not Breastfeeding Can Be Costly
Beyond the added upfront costs of purchasing baby formula — which can be a very expensive experience in and of itself — choosing to feed your baby formula instead of breast milk can have even more costly long-term effects.
Because breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the risk of so many conditions and ailments, it’s important to view breastfeeding as an investment in health rather than just a lifestyle choice. In fact, the CDC estimates that low breastfeeding rates can cost Americans over $3 billion per year as a result of indirect medical costs. Unfortunately, studies have shown that breastfeeding rates are actually lower among lower-income Americans, so these health costs may be disproportionately affecting those who can least afford them.
Resources for New and Expecting Moms in Southern Maryland
Deciding whether or not you want to breastfeed your child is a personal choice. New and expecting mothers should always talk with their doctor to learn more about the benefits of breastfeeding versus formula so they can make an informed decision about what’s best for them and their family.
If you’re still unsure about breastfeeding or simply want the perspective of a women’s health doctor, we encourage you to schedule an appointment at UM Charles Regional Medical Group – Women’s Health in La Plata, MD. Led by Dr. Erica Contreras and Dr. Katreena Settle, this practice is where you can get answers to your most pressing questions and care from women doctors who have a combined 22 years of experience.