Breastfeeding has countless benefits for both mother and child, and we’ve all grown accustomed to the term, ‘breast is best.’ Some mothers cannot breastfeed or choose not to, and they should not be made to feel guilty about it; it’s their choice. However, many studies find that if women were given the proper support they need, many more would breastfeed exclusively for the recommended time of at least 6 months.
Breastfeeding has scientifically proven health benefits for the nursing mother and her baby. Studies show that babies who are nursed have greater protection from diseases including sudden infant death syndrome, type 2 diabetes, asthma, childhood leukemia and ear infections. Infants who receive mother’s milk are also less likely to be obese as children.
Moms who breastfeed are reducing their risk of breast and ovarian cancer, as well as type 2 diabetes. Breastfeeding is a great way for moms to bond with their baby. Breastfeeding helps moms get back in shape. You burn 500 calories a day producing and expressing milk! Breastfeeding is also free. Families can expect to spend up to $1,500 on formula if babies aren’t fed with breast milk. It’s convenient too, just whip out a breast and feed your child, although this is much easier in the privacy of your own home.
Because of its health benefits breastfeeding has the potential to save the lives of women and children who don’t get life-threatening diseases and save the U.S. economy billions in health care costs.
Breastfeeding comes with challenges too, especially in the beginning. Sore nipples, engorgement, plugged ducts, and mastitis are enough to make any mother want to give up. Your chances for breastfeeding success are best when you get to work right away.
“It helps to get the support right away in the hospital, feeding on demand, avoiding pacifiers and having skin to skin contact with the baby right after birth and for at least an hour,” said Mary Cerny, R.N., a lactation consultant at Langlade Hospital.
Support from your partner is also crucial in breastfeeding success.
Once you have breastfeeding down, there are still some challenges. For some reason, there’s still a stigma about breastfeeding in public and for some women it can be uncomfortable. Know that it is legal to breastfeed in public and most states plus the federal government protect women this way. To make it easier you can bring a blanket to cover your baby while breastfeeding, or find a dressing room or bathroom to nurse in.
Find support at work. If you’re returning to work, make sure your boss knows you’ll need time to express milk while working. Your employer should find you a suitable, private place to do so. If your baby is nearby, find out if you can go home and breastfeed over lunch, or if your baby can come to you.
Another way to make breastfeeding easier is to reach out to your state and U.S. representatives. The Supporting Working Moms Act of 2013 was introduced in Congress on May 13th, but sent to back to committee. It would make employers provide reasonable time for nursing mothers.