Breastfeeding has a lot of advantages for new moms and babies, not the least of which is that breastmilk offers complete nutrition for growing babies. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life, then continuing to breastfeed while introducing age-appropriate foods through age two. However, many moms have trouble making the decision to start or continue breastfeeding.
Meg Johnstone, BSN, RN-C, IBCLC, a lactation consultant with Atlantic Health System, shares the top benefits of breastfeeding – for mom and baby – and resources to support breastfeeding parents at all stages of the journey.
Top benefits of breastfeeding
“New moms are programmed to make milk that supports their newborns, and that milk changes with their baby’s needs”, says Johnstone. Beyond nutrition, here are some of the other top benefits of breastfeeding:
- Boosts babies’ immune systems: The colostrum (the first milk a mother produces) lays down the first layer of prebiotics to support a newborn’s immune system.
- Long-term health benefits for babies: Children who are breastfed for a year have protection against frequent ear infections, GI infections, juvenile diabetes, childhood obesity and more, with benefits lasting up to seven years.
- Health benefits for moms: Breastfeeding is not only a wonderful bonding experience for moms and babies, but the hormones released during breastfeeding also help uterine contraction and reduce bleeding risk. Long term, it also lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, ovarian cancer and osteoporosis.
- May help moms lose baby weight: Breastfeeding burns about 300 extra calories per day.
- Saves money: Formula can cost up to $5,000 per year. Breastfeeding, even part of the time, helps to lower that cost.
What resources are available to support moms who choose to breastfeed?
The national average of babies ever being breastfed is about 83%, but exclusive breastfeeding through six months hovers around 25%. Atlantic Health is here to help. Our team supports moms-to-be (and their partners) with prenatal breastfeeding classes. In-hospital, new moms have lactation consultants available to help with the first days of breastfeeding. All Atlantic Health nurses also go through lactation training with these consultants to better support new moms. After discharge, breastfeeding mothers can call for a lactation consultation and attend post-delivery breastfeeding support groups.
“Being a breastfeeding mom can be isolating,” says Johnstone. “So post-delivery support groups are very helpful. The pediatricians also like it because babies can get ongoing weight checks and make sure they are doing well.”
While breastfeeding has many advantages, it’s a very personal decision – and one that moms should be confident and comfortable with.
“We will support moms who choose to breastfeed exclusively. We will also support moms who cannot or choose not to breastfeed,” says Johnstone. “No mom will be shamed into trying something she’s not comfortable with. We know breastfeeding can be challenging, so we will support moms in the hospital and when they go home.”
Be Proactive About Your Health
From providing complete nutrition to boosting babies’ immune systems, breastfeeding has a lot of advantages for new moms and babies. All of our program’s board-certified lactation consultants are registered nurses with years of experience helping new mothers breastfeed their babies.