Are there benefits to breastfeeding?
Yes! In 1997, The American Academy for Pediatrics (A.P.P.) released a statement advising that human milk should be used exclusively for the first six months of a baby’s life and should be supplemented with solid foods for the first year. So, while all mammals produce milk that contains fat, proteins, lactose, vitamins, minerals, and water, the combinations of these ingredients as well as the types of proteins and fats differ from species to species. The biologic specificity of human milk means that the milk is designed to promote human brain growth, so babies can learn to analyze their environments and participate in complex, social interactions. In contrast, the makeup of cow’s milk prepares a calf for quick muscular growth, so it can stand immediately and walk long distances, forging for grass.
Because babies do not develop their own immune systems right away, breast milk also provides them with antibodies from the mother that can help protect them from disease.
In fact, babies fed breast milk have decreased incidents of the following:
• Bacterial meningitis
• Respiratory tract infection
• Necrotic intestinal tissues
• Inner ear infections
• Urinary tract infection
• Late-onset sepsis in preterm infants
• Decreased rates of SIDS
• Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
• Hodgkin’s disease
There are also breastfeeding benefits for moms that include lowered risk of certain types of disease and speedier weight loss. Some of the benefits for mothers include the following:
• Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes
• Reduced incidences of breast and ovarian cancers
• Lowered risk of maternal postpartum depression
• Speedier return to pre-pregnancy weight
• Decreased bleeding
• Quicker return of the uterus to pre-pregnancy size
There are very few contraindications to breastfeeding, but certainly mothers who’ve tested positive for HIV, have active tuberculosis or are current street drug users should avoid it. Many prescription medications, including various kinds of anti-depressants are considered safe while breastfeeding, but it is always best to speak to your doctor before taking any medication while nursing.
The Breastfeeding Center at East Jefferson General Hospital is open seven days a week to offer guidance and support during and after pregnancy. Call (504) 454-4323 with any breast feeding questions.