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Breastfeeding Benefits
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A recent analysis revealed that if 90% of American women would breastfeed their babies for the first six months, the lives of 900 babies would be saved, along with billions of dollars in healthcare costs.[1] The health benefits of breastfeeding are incredible, with more being discovered each year. Breast milk contains antibodies to help protect babies from disease and has been shown to reduce a baby’s risk of Type 2 diabetes, obesity, asthma, lower respiratory infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).[2] Additionally, breast milk is easier for babies to digest and its nutrients are more readily absorbed by a baby’s body.

The baby isn’t the only one to benefit from breastfeeding, either. Breastfeeding mothers have reduced rates of Type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and postpartum depression. Nursing gives the mother relaxed time to bond with her baby and releases oxytocin, a calming hormone. Studies have shown that breastfeeding mothers also enjoy more sleep, contrary to the popular idea that formula-fed babies sleep better.[3] Breastfeeding requires no mixing of formula or sterilizing bottles and reduces the number of baby items you have to tote in your diaper bag. It saves money, too!


Despite these benefits, many mothers are not breastfeeding their babies. Some are unable to breastfeed for health reasons. Others are held back by cultural stigma or misinformation about how breastfeeding may change their bodies. And many stop nursing in the early weeks, overwhelmed by challenges they did not anticipate.

When I began my breastfeeding journey, I was quickly frustrated and overwhelmed. Since breastfeeding was the “natural” thing to do, I expected it to come naturally! I didn’t anticipate the learning curve. Women may face everything from clogged ducts and mastitis to supply issues and latch problems. These difficulties may be overcome with proper support. It is critical for women to educate themselves during pregnancy and develop a strong support system. Find a breastfeeding support group in your area. Make sure your hospital is lactation friendly. Read, read, and READ. Ask questions of friends who have breastfed. If you don’t have any, look for online communities like mothering.com. Make sure your pediatrician is supportive and informed.

And then, after those first few weeks, the challenges diminish. Mothers suddenly realize that breastfeeding is becoming second nature. They pop the baby on and baby's happy gulps make them smile. They latch the baby quickly at night and their sleep improves. Mothers realize they can nurse at the grocery store without having a minor panic attack. Knowing that they are giving their baby the best start they can, makes every difficult moment worth the effort!

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By Danae Schilt. Copyright © 2015 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

[1] CBS News: More Breastfeeding Could Save 900 Babies a Year
[2] WomensHealth.gov: Why Breastfeeding is Important
[3] USAToday: Study, Breastfeeding Won’t Rob Mom of Sleep

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