August is Breastfeeding Month

Malissa Sarver - Registered Dietitian-KDMC Ohio

It offers just the right balance of nutrients, helps babies’ immune systems, and provides all the hydration babies need. And it’s free! Sounds great, right? So why don’t all mothers breastfeed?

The short answer is that it can be challenging. In reality, a lot of complex factors influence a woman’s decision to breastfeed or not. Many women go back to work and find it hard to keep a supply of milk on hand for caregivers. They may be worried about how strangers will respond if they need to breastfeed in a public place. Physically, troublesome symptoms like soreness, clogged milk ducts, and leaking can challenge a woman’s endurance. There are also some myths about breastfeeding that need to be challenged. While formula fed babies may sleep longer during the first four weeks, after that breastfed babies catch up and tend to sleep the same amount of time.

So is it worth it all?

Each woman and baby is unique, and ultimately the decision is up to them. A baby can get what he or she needs from formula, but may miss out on some benefits from breastfeeding. Many health organizations recommend that babies be fed exclusively with breast milk for six months and then introduce baby foods. However, any amount of breastfeeding will benefit a baby. This is because it has antibodies, proteins that our immune system makes to fight off bacteria and viruses that could make us sick. It also has the perfect mix of vitamins, protein, and fat. Babies who are breastfed are less likely to have ear infections, respiratory illnesses, asthma, allergies, and bouts of diarrhea.

The advantages of breastfeeding do not stop at mother and baby either. Entire communities reap the benefits of breastfeeding as breastfeeding uses no packaging, shipping, and requires no disposal. Thus breastfeeding does not waste resources or cause pollution. Communities are also improved by breastfeeding by reducing the cost of healthcare and the need for health services that must be paid for by insurers, government agencies, or families.

It’s not just good for babies, either. Skin-to-skin contact is great for mother-baby bonding. Mothers who breastfeed have lower risk breast and ovarian cancers and post-partum depression. The release of the hormone oxytocin helps the uterus return to its usual size, too. It can even help women lose pregnancy weight faster. On top of all that, it can save a family $1,000 to $4,000 per year, depending on the formula brand.

Eating a healthy diet is always a good idea, and can help a woman feel good while breastfeeding. A balanced meal (or day) could include:

· Lean, iron-rich protein foods like chicken, eggs, beans, and peanut butter

· Whole grain foods like whole wheat bread, brown rice, and oatmeal

· Lots of fruits and vegetables

· Low-fat dairy (or dairy alternatives)

Breastfeeding moms who eat a variety of foods may even influence babies’ tastes. Foods lend breastmilk distinct flavors, so these babies are introduced to more tastes. When it’s time to start solid foods, breastfed babies tend to be more accepting of new foods than formula-fed babies.

Nursing mothers should consume between 13 and 16 cups (104—128 ounces) of fluids per day. This includes fluids that we get from foods. Drinking a large glass of water during a breast-feeding session can help mothers stay hydrated.

Studies show that a small amount of caffeine (up to two cups of coffee per day) will not affect a nursing baby’s sleep patterns. However, some women become more sensitive to caffeine during and after pregnancy. Since tolerance to caffeine varies a good bit, moms should take note of how they feel and how their baby responds after consuming caffeine. Moderation is usually the best bet.

Want to learn more about breastfeeding or celebrate August as Breastfeeding Awareness Month? Join Community Action Organization of Scioto County’s WIC on Friday August 18 from 10am-2pm at 411 2nd street. There will be face painting, inflatables, stroller decorating contest, information, KDMC will be offering a free health screening, and a walk that begins at 11am. For more information call WIC at 740-354-7991. Come out and celebrate World Breastfeeding Month and have fun too!

Malissa Sarver

Registered Dietitian-KDMC Ohio