World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) kicks off today in more than 120 countries, with the goal of encouraging breastfeeding to improve the health of babies around the world.
According to 2011 reports from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 67.3 percent of North Carolina women have breastfed their babies at some point. 37 percent of babies continue to be breastfed at six months, and 19.6 percent are breastfed at 12 months.
“We’ve recently seen some increase in the number of breastfeeding mothers that we service, and hope to continue to see those numbers rise,” said Saquana Miller-Stevenson, Richmond County Health Department WIC Director.
In support of WBC, WIC breastfeeding peer counselor Amy Locklear gave an interview to G104 FM and discussed the benefits of breastfeeding. WIC will also be participating in the pregnancy fair at FirstHealth Richmond on Aug. 8, and sharing information about breastfeeding.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding is good for both babies and mothers.
Human milk is easier to for babies to digest, and contains all the nutrients, calories and fluids babies need - as well as growth factors that ensure the best development of a baby’s organs.
Breast milk has many substances that formulas don’t have which protect babies from many diseases and infections. Breastfed babies are less likely to have ear infections, diarrhea, pneumonia, wheezing, bronchitis, bacterial and viral infections such as meningitis. Research also suggests that breastfeeding may help to protect babies against obesity, diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and some cancers.
Breastfeeding has been shown to promote health in women as well.
It helps the uterus return to pre-pregnancy size more quickly. More calories are burned by breastfeeding mothers, which helps with post-pregnancy weight loss. It delays the return of the menstrual period, to help breastfeeding mothers keep iron in the body. It also has been proven to reduce the risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer, as well as promote strong bones.
For many mothers and babies, breastfeeding goes smoothly from the start, but it’s not uncommon for new mothers to need time to get the hang of it. New mothers with questions can ask doctors and nurses while they’re still in the hospital, or contact the Richmond County Health Department WIC office at 910-997-8313 for more information or guidance.
Beginning in July 2010, state policy requires all government agencies to provide space, privacy and time for nursing mothers to express breast milk - which is perfect for working mothers who need to bottle feed babies, but still wish for them to receive breast milk.
Breast milk can be expressed and stored for later use, which is cheaper than paying for formula. According to AmericanPregnancy.Org, the cost of baby formula can range from $54 to $198 per month. Breast milk can be expressed and stored for the cost of a pump and a few bottles.
“Breastfeeding is the optimal method of feeding and emotional, financial and health benefits are just some of the positive things that can result from choosing this method,” said Miller-Stevenson.