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While breastfeeding fell out of favor in the U.S. for a time during the 1960s and 70s due to women working outside the home and an overall lack of information and support, the practice has seen a reawakening as moms and clinicians learn more about the health reasons to nourish babies with mothers' milk whenever possible.
Because human breast milk contains protective hormones and antibodies, the risk of asthma, leukemia, obesity, ear infections, type 2 diabetes, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is lower for breastfed babies.
Colostrum - a nursing mother’s protein-rich first milk often referred to as “liquid gold” – plays an important role in developing a healthy digestive system. And her mature milk (produced three to five days after giving birth) contains the perfect blend and amounts of nutrients her baby needs to grow and thrive.
Breastfeeding also offers health benefits for moms – women who nurse their babies are less likely to be diagnosed with diabetes, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer. Some studies indicate it can help kick-start postpartum weight loss as well.
There are even environmental reasons to support breastfeeding. As more women opt for the most natural method, fewer formula cans and plastic bottles find their way to the ocean or end up in landfills.
In the past few decades, hospitals and birthing centers have strived to provide more comprehensive education and support for breastfeeding and facilitate optimal mother/baby/family bonding.
To help guide these efforts, in 1991 the World Health Organization and UNICEF founded the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, a global program that encourages breastfeeding as the best way to improve infant health. The initiative awards certified “Baby-Friendly” status to facilities that achieve several specific evidence-based milestones, such as in-depth training for all health care staff and a policy that allows new mothers and their babies to remain together 24 hours a day.
This month is the perfect time of year for hospital leaders, clinicians and families to learn more about the myriad benefits of breastfeeding. Declared National Breastfeeding Month by the United States Breastfeeding Committee in 2011, the first week of August is also recognized as World Breastfeeding Week by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action.
The Centers for Disease Control has developed helpful resources outlining best practices, national policies, recommendations, and answers to frequently asked questions, along with a portal for the latest scientific research related to breastfeeding.
In addition, many health and women’s organizations, experts and supporters are using social media sites to share additional tips, stories, and articles this month. Use the hashtag #NBM17 to peruse the content or join the conversation.
Screenshot from @CDCObesity Twitter, August 2
This blog provides general information and discussion about healthcare-related subjects. The content and linked materials provided are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader is an expectant mother with a medical concern, she should consult with an appropriately licensed physician or healthcare provider.
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