Health: Breastfeeding offers many benefits

By Debbie Howes Fleming Published:

The Franklin County Health Department hosted the annual Support Breastfeeding in our Community celebration last Tuesday. The event was one of many worldwide events held during August to celebrate and raise awareness about the importance of breastfeeding.

According to the United States Food and Drug Administration, breast milk is the best source of nutrition for babies since it contains the correct amount of “fatty acids, lactose, water and amino acids” that are needed for optimal health and growth. Breast milk also contains antibodies that will provide some immunization protection against many illnesses that can be life threatening to infants.

Each year an estimated 4 million infants die in the first month of life. The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services estimates that if mothers begin to breastfeed during the baby’s first hour of life, infant mortality could be reduced by 1 million deaths worldwide.

The U.S. has one of the lowest rates of women who breastfeed among the developed countries. In spite of all the benefits, cultural norms, lack of information or incorrect information and lack of support are factors that can negatively influence a woman’s decision to breastfeed. By providing women with the best possible sources of information, support at home, as well as support from the community and in the workplace, our community can positively influence a woman’s decision to breastfeed.

Breastfeeding has many benefits including psychological benefits for both mother and baby. During breastfeeding the skin-to-skin contact provides the infant with a close attachment to the mother and helps the mother to bond more closely with her baby. The infant is more easily comforted and this helps reduce the mother’s stress level.

Other reasons to breastfeed revolve around convenience and financial issues. Breastfeeding does not require any additional equipment or products that need to be carted around and kept clean. Formula is expensive as are bottles and nipples. Bottles, nipples and the equipment needed to make the formula can be sources of bacteria unless they are properly cleaned and sterilized. Breast milk changes to meet the changing needs of the baby.

Breastfed babies have fewer illnesses that require visits to the doctor’s office and often expensive medications. Since 70 percent of working mothers have children who are under the age of three, fewer illnesses translate into fewer days missed at work. Both the working mom and her employer could potentially benefit from breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding burns 500 calories a day so women who breast-feed are likely to lose the extra baby pounds more quickly. For women who are pregnant or plan to have children one day, it is worth the time to learn about breastfeeding and ask questions of their health care providers. FCHD provides educational and support programs for women who are considering or who are breastfeeding.

Contact Sally Brunner at 564-7647 for more information about breastfeeding programs offered by FCHD.

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