The benefits of breastfeeding

By • Published: October 2nd, 2009
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

When it comes to feeding your child, apparently breast is still best… and we’re not talking about chicken.

These days, about three-quarters of moms are breastfeeding their newborns immediately after the little one enters the world. That’s an increase over ten years ago, when just sixty-eight percent of families chose breast over bottle.

But experts say this surge isn’t quite enough. Why? Doctors recommend that babies stick to breastmilk only until they are at least six months old. Data collected in 2005 shows that only twelve percent of mothers exclusively breastfeed this long.

Now, health agencies are joining forces to understand what keeps some women from breastfeeding and develop strategies to help them.

Breastmilk arms babies with antibodies that help their tiny bodies avoid illness. It helps prevent sudden infant death syndrome and conditions such as asthma, obesity and diabetes, too. Breastfeeding also offers mothers some protection from diseases like breast and ovarian cancer.

Unfortunately, the decision to breastfeed, or how long to do it, isn’t always a simple one for many women. Some mothers produce little to no milk. Also, many new moms have to go back to work after a few short weeks, which experts say doesn’t always give mom or baby enough time to get used to breastfeeding. For working moms to breastfeed, they need pricey pumps and time and space to pump milk at work, too. And not all employers accommodate these needs.

But experts say it’s actually in society’s best interest to help new moms. Breastfed babies tend to be healthier. And who doesn’t want that?