National Breastfeeding Month & World Breastfeeding Week (August 1 – August 7)

Mother breastfeeding infant

Breastfeeding – An Important Health Investment for Mom and Baby

Breastfeeding goes beyond providing the best nutrition for your newborn -- breastfeeding also provides many important health benefits for both you and your baby that continue throughout your lives. Yet according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) only 1 in 4 infants is exclusively breastfed, as recommended, up to 6 months old. Additionally, the CDC reports 60% of new mothers don’t breastfeed their infants for as long as they initially intended.

August 1 through August 7 is designated World Breastfeeding Week, with August designated National Breastfeeding Month. Your Capital Women’s Care team wants to share many important health benefits breastfeeding offers to both babies and their mothers, including proven research indicating the value of breastfeeding and its overall positive impact on establishing and nurturing the bond between you and your baby.

Breastfeeding Recommendations

The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends all babies be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months, with breastfeeding continuing after other foods are introduced for at least baby’s first year.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breastfeeding until 2 years old or longer  due to its valuable health benefits. The first 2 years of a child’s life are particularly important, as optimal nutrition during this period lowers morbidity and mortality, reduces risk of chronic disease and fosters better development overall.

Health Benefits for Babies

Breastfeeding offers many important health benefits for babies that continue as they grow. Breastfeeding offers several key health advantages for babies:

Breast milk provides antibody protection. Numerous studies indicate babies who aren’t breastfed are more vulnerable to health issues.

Breastfeeding may reduce disease risk. Exclusive breastfeeding, meaning baby receives only breast milk, is particularly beneficial. Breastfeeding may reduce your baby’s risk for many illnesses and diseases, including:

Breast milk promotes baby’s healthy weight. Breastfeeding promotes healthy weight gain and helps prevent childhood obesity.

One study found breastfeeding for longer than 4 months had a significant reduction in the chances of a baby developing overweight and obese, which may be due to the development of different gut bacteria. Breastfed babies have higher amounts of beneficial gut bacteria, which may affect fat storage.

Babies fed breast milk also have more leptin in their systems than formula-fed babies. Leptin is a key hormone for regulating appetite and fat storage.

Breastfed babies also self-regulate milk intake. They’re better at eating only until they’ve satisfied their hunger, which helps to develop healthy eating patterns.

Breastfeeding may positively impact baby’s brain development and intelligence. Some studies suggest there may be a difference in brain development between breastfed and formula-fed babies. This difference may be due to the physical intimacy, touch and eye contact associated with breastfeeding as well as its vital nutrient content.

Studies indicate breastfed babies have higher intelligence scores and are less likely to develop behavioral problems and have learning difficulties as they grow. However, the most pronounced effects are seen in preterm babies, who have higher risk of developmental issues.

Research clearly demonstrates breastfeeding has significant positive effects on babies’ long-term brain development.

Health Benefits for Mothers

Breastfeeding is greatly beneficial to women’s health and healing following childbirth and provides several proven health benefits for new mothers:

Breastfeeding lowers risk of specific health issues affecting mothers. Breastfeeding mothers can reduce risk of developing certain diseases and health issues:

type 2 diabetes. Research has found that breastfeeding increases insulin sensitivity and improves glucose metabolism in mothers. Women who exclusively breastfed or mostly breastfed were about half as likely to develop type 2 diabetes as those who didn’t breastfeed.

Breastfeeding for 6+ months or more cuts women’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes by nearly half, compared with women who didn’t breastfeed.

Breastfeeding for less than 6 months was still found to be beneficial, reducing risk by 25%. Lactation may have a protective effect on pancreatic cells that control blood insulin levels, state Kaiser Permanente researchers conducting this long-term study.

certain types of breast cancer. Mothers who breastfeed for more than a year cut their risk of breast cancer by 26%. In one large review of studies, women’s breast cancer risk was reduced by more than 4% for each year of breastfeeding. One possible reason may be that breastfeeding suppresses estrogen, which can promote abnormal cell growth.

endometrial cancer. Breastfeeding is associated with a lower risk of endometrial cancer, with women who breastfeed demonstrating an 11% lower endometrial cancer risk than women who didn’t breastfeed.

rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Researchers at the University of Birmingham in the U.K. found during a 2014 study that breastfeeding, especially for a longer period of time, may cut a woman’s risk of rheumatoid arthritis by 50%.

ovarian cancer. Studies indicate breastfeeding impacts ovarian cancer risk. The longer breastfeeding occurs, the lower the risk of developing ovarian cancer. This is likely connected to hormonal changes and reduced menstrual cycles postpartum which result in overall lifetime exposure to less estrogen.

heart disease. A large study involving postmenopausal women found the longer women breastfeed, the lower their risk factors for developing heart disease, the number 1 killer of U.S. women. Those women reporting a lifetime history of more than 12 months of breastfeeding were less likely to have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or heart disease compared with women who never breastfed.

high blood pressure. women who breastfeed more infants and for a longer duration considerably show a lower risk of hypertension in postmenopausal women, according to a 2018 study by researchers at Oxford University.

postpartum depression. According to a 2012 study, women who breastfeed seem less likely to develop postpartum depression (PPD), which is a type of depression that develops shortly after childbirth, compared to those who wean early or don’t breastfeed. However, those women experiencing PPD early after delivery are also more likely to have trouble breastfeeding and do so for a shorter duration.

If you have symptoms of PPD, let your local Capital Women’s Care team know as soon as possible to help you get appropriate treatment.

Women who breastfeed may better manage postpartum weight. Making breast milk requires extra energy. Experts estimate the number of calories burned during breastfeeding ranges from 300-500 calories per day.

To lose excess weight postpartum, you can typically consume the same number of calories as before your pregnancy, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health.

Be sure to talk with your local Capital Women’s Care team about your postpartum nutrition needs to breastfeed your baby and maintain a healthy weight.

Breastfeeding helps postpartum healing. Women who breastfeed speed uterine healing and reduce uterine bleeding postpartum. This healing process is aided by the release of oxytocin, a hormone that helps the uterus contract and get back to normal size while reducing bleeding after childbirth, during breastfeeding sessions.

Breastfeeding Promotes Bonding

Breastfeeding also encourages positive emotional and behavioral health for both mother and baby. Strong physical and emotional bonds develop between breastfeeding mothers and their babies and adds vital skin-to-skin contact, more holding and stroking. Many experts feel affectionate bonding during the first years of life help reduce social and behavioral problems in both children and adults.

Additionally, breastfeeding makes a positive impact on the mental health and well-being of both baby and mother. Women who breastfeed learn to read their infant’s cues and derive a greater sense of well-being, self-esteem, and confidence in their maternal roles. Babies develop and grow trust with caregivers, helping babies to shape positive early behavior through a solid foundation for developing favorable emotional and behavioral health.

Your local Capital Women’s Care family of healthcare professionals can answer your questions or concerns about breastfeeding and any women’s health issue. Our team of knowledgeable, empathetic doctors, nurses, and practitioners offer you comprehensive healthcare and services from annual well-woman checks through pregnancy and menopause, plus monitoring your health throughout your golden years.

For more information about breastfeeding, contact the following organizations:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Phone: 800-232-4636
https://www.cdc.gov

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
Phone: 847-434-4000
https://www.aap.org

La Leche League International
Phone: 800-525-3243
https://www.llli.org

Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/about-breastfeeding/why-it-matters.html
https://www.healthline.com/health/breastfeeding/11-benefits-of-breastfee...
https://www.health.com/condition/pregnancy/breastfeeding-benefits-for-mom
https://services.aap.org/en/patient-care/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-ove...
https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/breastfeeding/conditioninfo/bene...
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15274-the-benefits-of-bre...
https://healthykidshealthyfuture.org/5-healthy-goals/support-breast-feed...
https://cwsglobal.org/blog/the-short-and-long-term-benefits-of-breastfee...
https://childdevelopmentinfo.com/child-health-news/6-major-benefits-brea...
https://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/making-decision-breastfeed/#1
https://www.llli.org/
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/i...

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