One of the most highly effective preventive measures a mother can take to protect the health of her infant and herself is to breastfeed. In fact, the importance of breastfeeding and its ramifications propelled the Surgeon General of the United States of America to issue a “Call to Action” to the general public in 2011. “For nearly all infants, breastfeeding is the best source of infant nutrition and immunologic protection, and it provides remarkable health benefits to mothers as well,” said Surgeon General Dr. Regina M. Benjamin.
By Laura Childers
Benefits for Babies
Studies show that babies who are breastfed have less diarrhea, constipation, and stomach problems. They also have fewer instances of allergies, asthma, obesity, psoriasis, diabetes, ear infections, urinary tract infections, respiratory infections, and serious illnesses such as bacterial meningitis, childhood cancers, and botulism. Overall, there are far fewer trips to the doctor.
Benefits for Moms
For moms, breastfeeding helps the uterus shrink to its normal size and causes uterine contractions right after birth which lead to less bleeding. It also burns extra calories to help get you in shape faster, and reduces the risk of developing osteoporosis, ovarian cancer, postpartum depression, and premenopausal breast cancer.
Reaping the Full Benefits
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that breastfeeding continue for at least 12 months, and thereafter for as long as mother and baby desire. The World Health Organization recommends continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond. Unfortunately, while 75% of mothers start out breastfeeding, only 13% of babies are exclusively breastfed at the end of six months, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.