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World Breastfeeding Week: The benefits of breastfeeding
July 31, 2017
by Ellee Humphrey, Director of Women's Services, Clark Memorial Hospital
Healthy behaviors for new moms and babies take the spotlight August 1 – 7 during World Breastfeeding Week (WBW), an opportunity for health-related groups across the world to focus their efforts on the benefits of breastfeeding. Launched in 1991 by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), WBW aims to “protect, promote and support breastfeeding.” This year, the organization is placing particular emphasis on working together for the common good.
At Clark Memorial Hospital, we are proud to join the action and participate in #WBW17 and provide support to the breastfeeding moms in our area – those at work and at home, first-time moms to fourth-time moms and beyond, single moms and married moms. We want every mom to have the support she needs to give her baby a healthy start to life, and a big part of that support is understanding the benefits of breastfeeding, both for the mom and the baby.
Benefits for babies
There are many benefits babies will reap from breast milk. The nutrients, hormones and antibodies provided by the mother will help keep the baby healthy and strong. Plus, breast milk tends to be easier for babies to digest. Add in the sense of comfort and security that breastfeeding offers a baby, and you have three compelling reasons to take nature’s approach to feeding your child.
In addition to the three reasons mentioned above, breastfed babies tend to have lower risk of allergies, ear infections, diarrhea, asthma, obesity and Type 2 diabetes, and lower respiratory infections. And if you still have reservations, the physical contact of breastfeeding is a great way for a new mom and baby to bond.
Benefits for moms
While people often talk about the benefits of breastfeeding for babies, it can be equally beneficial for mothers. The most obvious benefit to breastfeeding for new moms is that it is a perfect opportunity to really connect and bond with your new baby. You can give your baby something that no one else can – nutritious milk and a strong sense of security.
On top of the bonding and security breastfeeding provides, it also is free and can save significant amounts of time and money. Estimates indicate that formula and feeding supplies can cost more than $1,500 per year. Breastfeeding also saves time in that moms do not have to deal with measuring and mixing formula and sterilizing bottles. Additionally, the physical contact between mother and baby increases oxytocin levels, a hormone that helps milk flow and can create a calming effect for the mother. Studies have shown that breastfeeding lowers the mother’s risk of Type 2 diabetes, breast and ovarian cancer and postpartum depression. It also requires calorie expenditure, which can help new moms shed any extra weight gained during pregnancy.
But breastfeeding can be intimidating for first-time moms. How do I know if my baby is getting enough milk? What if I’m feeding her too much? Are the foods I’m eating upsetting my baby’s stomach? How can I breastfeed when I return to work? All of these questions, and so many more, often dissuade new moms from breastfeeding, but they shouldn’t.
At Clark Memorial Hospital, we offer a number of services to answer these questions, calm new mothers’ fears and provide support to moms who want to breastfeed their babies. These services include Family Birth Place Childbirth Classes, a lactation consultant, breastfeeding supplies, support services. In addition, Clark Memorial Hospital is a designated Milk Depot and receives donated breastmilk from carefully screened donors. The lactation consultant packages and sends the milk to The Milk Bank in Indianapolis. The Milk Bank pasteurizes, freezes and distributes the donated breast milk throughout the United States.
To learn more about the services we offer, visit the Family Birth Place at clarkmemorial.org.