Last week we talked about some of the beneficial ingredients in breast milk, and some of the benefits that breastfeeding provides for babies. I thought that this week, we would focus more on moms.
In the early 1960’s formula was being aggressively marketed to new mothers and their doctors. Women trusted the claims that formula companies were making regarding the benefits for baby. At that time, women were increasingly working outside the home, and very often did not have the means to make breastfeeding feasible while working. This made the convenience of formula quite appealing.
Fast forward 50-something years…We now have lots of objective evidence with which to make an informed decision, as well as many ways to make breastfeeding work while still pursuing a career. We’ve come a long way!
Here are some of the benefits of breastfeeding for mom…
- Quicker weight loss and return to pre-pregnancy weight
- Babies who are breastfed develop better sleeping patterns, which is definitely a benefit for mom!
- Decreased risk of postpartum depression
- Fewer sick days taken at work, since baby will be less likely to be sick
- Decreased risk of multiple types of cancer, including breast cancer and ovarian cancer
- No need to prepare a bottle in the middle of the night, just put baby to the breast. Milk is always the perfect temperature!
- No need to take prepared bottles (or a cooler to keep them in) when going out with baby
- Decreased risk of diabetes and arthritis
- Improved bone health over your lifetime
- If you quit smoking during pregnancy, you have a decreased risk of picking up the habit again.
Here are some of the challenges of breastfeeding, and ways to address those challenges…
- In the first week or two, you will have nipple soreness, which can be easily addressed, and is temporary.
- Some women and babies have trouble getting the hang of breast feeding, which can lead to problems including mastitis (infection in the breast) or prolonged nipple soreness and cracking. This is something that can be prevented or remedied with breastfeeding classes, lactation consultation, and mentoring from women who have done it before. La Leche League International is a great organization which provides free mother-to-mother support, along with information and education for new breastfeeding mothers. There are also some great books on breastfeeding available.
- You will need to pump and store breast milk if you are planning to continue breastfeeding once you go back to work, which I would highly recommend. This means buying or renting a breast pump, and carving out a little time at work to pump. Your employer is more likely to be supportive of you pumping at work if he or she is aware of the decreased health care costs and the decrease in absenteeism associated with breastfeeding. The cost of the breast pump while less than you would spend on formula overall, is not cheap. Some insurance companies cover the cost of breast pumps, and there are programs that help women without insurance coverage to get breast pumps for lower cost.
- Some women feel uncomfortable breastfeeding in public places. There are many ways to breastfeed discreetly in public. I used a sling for keeping baby close, while keeping my hands free. I could feed baby while she was in the sling without anyone noticing at all. A light blanket is also very handy as a cover.
There are so many benefits for mother and baby from breastfeeding. If you are pregnant, I hope that you will seriously consider breastfeeding.
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Dr Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip