Each year, the first week of August is observed as National Breastfeeding Week. Breastfeeding is one of the single best things that a mother can do to improve health outcomes both for herself and for her baby, and this week aims to increase awareness and understanding about breastfeeding so that more women have the information they need to make choices about breastfeeding.
Breast milk has just the right balance of fat, sugar, protein, and water to nourish your baby and help him or her grow — it’s essentially Mother Nature’s baby formula, and it’s free. Mothers who follow optimal breastfeeding practices, meaning that babies are exclusively breastfed for the first six months before transitioning to a combination of breast milk and appropriate solid or semi-solid foods until they are up to two years old, can expect to save at least $1,200 to $1,500 on formula.
And the benefits are more than just financial — studies have shown that breastfed babies have a lower risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), have fewer ear and respiratory infections, and are less likely to experience diarrhea or digestive upset because breast milk is easier for them to digest than formula. Later on, they’re less likely to have eczema and allergies, and a new study suggests that there may also be a link between breastfeeding and having a higher IQ. And in addition to providing a great opportunity to bond with baby, breastfeeding can help mom burn calories and lose pregnancy weight as well as lower her risk for diabetes, depression, and some types of breast and ovarian cancers.
And that doesn’t just include breastfeeding the old-fashioned way — pumped breast milk fed from a bottle gives the same benefits and may be more convenient for many moms. The good news is that with increased education and awareness, more and more moms are choosing to breastfeed. In 2010, 77% of all babies in the U.S. were ever breastfed, up from 70% in 2000. The annual observance of National Breastfeeding Week hopes to further improve those percentages.
If you’d like to learn more about breastfeeding, check out our Love and Learn classes.