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Breastfeeding Best for Mothers as Well as Infants

August 10, 2007 | 32,493 views
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Breastfeeding is the best source of nutrition for newborns, and it’s beneficial for new moms too, report organizations worldwide that are hoping to increase rates of breastfeeding across the globe.

Despite the fact that breastfeeding mothers burn off calories, return to their pre-pregnancy weight faster, and reduce their risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and breast cancer, breastfeeding rates are declining worldwide.

In the Philippines, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III blames the country’s very low breastfeeding rate -- just 16 percent -- on the very successful campaign of breast milk substitutes.

Infant formula manufacturers spend millions of dollars to promote their products, and have led most mothers to falsely believe that formula is better than breast milk, he says.

Many Mothers Misinformed About Breastfeeding

Along with the strong advertising campaigns of infant-formula companies, misinformation has prompted many women to not breastfeed.

According to worldwide surveys, the most common reason why mothers said they didn’t breastfeed was that they didn’t have enough milk. Another common reason was that it would cause their breasts to sag. Both of these are myths.

In the United States, wealthier women who have received correct information about the benefits of breastfeeding are now more likely to breastfeed than lower income women.

In the Philippines, the wealthy are less likely to breastfeed than lower income women. The country is planning to intensify their efforts to encourage women to breastfeed for up to two years.

Inquirer.net August 5, 2007

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Dr. Mercola's Comments:

That breast milk is the best source of nutrition for newborns is one of the most clear-cut, non-debatable topics in health care. The benefits to the baby and the new mom are just enormous.

Breastfeeding rates in the United States fare better than the low rate of 16 percent in the Philippines, but there is still much room for improvement. According to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics, out of the women who gave birth in 2004, close to 74 percent initiated breastfeeding. This sounds like a fairly high number until you consider that this describes women who breastfed at all.

While any amount of breastfeeding is better than none, it is clearly to your advantage, and best for your baby’s health, to breastfeed exclusively -- meaning no other food or water is supplemented -- for the first 6 months. When it comes to exclusive breastfeeding, here’s what the CDC statistics reveal:
  • Just over 30 percent of women breastfed exclusively through age 3 months
  • Only 11 percent of women breastfed exclusively through age 6 months
Ideally, you should strive to breastfeed your baby exclusively for the first 6 months, and only then begin to supplement with solid foods (while still continuing to breastfeed as well).

Why Breastfeeding is Best

What exactly does your baby stand to gain by being breastfed? Here are just some of the benefits that it provides to your child:
  • Lower risk of respiratory tract and middle ear infections
  • Lower risk of eczema
  • Lower risk of obesity
  • Added protection against heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and allergies
  • Improved brain function and immune system function
Of course, there are benefits to mom too, as this article points out. The main ones are a reduced risk of chronic diseases like cancer, a faster return to your pre-pregnancy weight, and increased bonding between you and your baby.

Breastfeeding Myths Debunked

There are certain medical conditions that can prevent a woman from breastfeeding, however the majority of women are able to breastfeed successfully. Often, those who choose not to are doing so because of misinformation, so I want to clear up some of the myths right now.

MYTH 1: “I don’t have enough milk.” ALL women have enough milk to breastfeed. The more the baby nurses, the more milk you will produce.

MYTH 2: Infant formula is more nutritious. This is absolutely not true. There are at least 400 nutrients in breast milk that are not found in formula. Of course, the healthier that a new mom eats, the healthier her breast milk will be.  

MYTH 3: Breastfeeding is painful. Breastfeeding can be painful for some women, but this is almost always the result of incorrect positioning. Trouble with positioning can be resolved by getting help from a lactation consultant.

What to do if You Can’t Breastfeed

If you cannot breastfeed, you can make a healthy homemade infant formula for your child using this recipe. (Soy infant formula should definitely be avoided.)  Le Leche League is another terrific resource. I was fortunate to be in a rotation group for my last two years of medical school with Tim Cahill, whose mother is Mary, and is one of the founders of Le Leche League.  Tim was a super terrific guy, and a great testimony to what breast feeding can do. He has also been brought up to rarely ever watch TV.

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