For new mothers, breastfeeding can be a rewarding process; an important time for a mother to connect with her child. This intimate and age-old process provides numerous health benefits that make breastfeeding a clear choice in child nutrition.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) infants who are breastfed have reduced risks of:
- Type 1 Diabetes
- Sever Lower Respiratory Disease
- Ear Infections
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
- Gastrointestinal Infections (diarrhea/vomiting)
And of course, Mom benefits too with reduced risks of High Blood Pressure, Type 2 Diabetes, Ovarian Cancer, and Breast Cancer. Despite these benefits, current data indicates that most infants in the U.S. are not being breastfed as long as is recommended. So, what could possibly be the factors influencing these statistics?
A Formula for a Healthy, Happy Baby
According to the Office on Women’s Health from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, there are several myths and societal stigmas surrounding breastfeeding that discourage mothers from breastfeeding. Among these is the myth that formula feeding is cheaper, easier, and has more vitamins than breastmilk. In fact, the opposite is true. Formula cannot match the nutrients and vitamins in breast milk. In addition, breastmilk contains antibodies which can only be passed from a mother to their baby which help protect babies from getting sick, and help to produce better health outcomes in their future. Breastmilk also does not require sterilizing, mixing, or heating making it an easily accessible nourishment source for a child. While not requiring a bottle, nipples, and other tools for the storage and care of formula products makes breastfeeding more affordable for families. Breastfeeding can actually save a family up to $1,500 in a baby’s first year alone according to a report conducted by the Office of the Surgeon General in 2011.
Breastmilk - It's Alive!
Breastmilk is a living substance that contains live cells, including stem cells, which go on to become other body cell types like brain, heart, kidney, or bone tissue. These cells are part of the reason why breastfed babies tend to grow stronger and healthier than non-breastfed babies. While these cells go on to help an infant grow, white blood cells that are transmitted through breastmilk help a baby fight off infections. When a baby is sick, a mother’s body naturally reacts by producing more white blood cells in breastmilk which then get transferred to a baby during feeding. However, it is not all just beneficial to the baby; mothers mutually benefit from breastfeeding through hormones such as prolactin and oxytocin their brain releases during breastfeeding which help to relieve stress, and anxiety, all while strengthening the bond between mother and child.
Staying Abreast of Breastfeeding Best Practices
So, if you’re a new mother and don’t quite have all the guidance you need to get started, you’re in luck! Although no woman is born with a breastfeeding tool kit and manual, there are a few tips and best practices that all mothers should be aware of as they start to breastfeed, courtesy of your friends at the CDC:
- Before expressing or handling breast milk always wash your hands.
- Always ensure that a pump kit and tubing is clean; and to discard and replace moldy tubing immediately.
- Use breast milk storage bags or clean, food-grade containers to store expressed breast milk, and avoid bottles or plastics with the recycle symbol number 7 as these may contain BPA plastics.
- Freshly expressed or pumped milk can be stored at room temperature for 4 hours, in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, or in a freezer for up to 6 months.
- Don’t store breast milk in the door of a refrigerator or freezer as constant temperature changes from opening and closing the door may compromise the breastmilk.
- Breastmilk can be stored in an insulated cooler with frozen ice packs for up to 24 hours when travelling. At your destination, use the breast milk right away, store in the refrigerator, or freeze it.
- There are several ways to thaw breastmilk: - In the refrigerator overnight; - Set in a container of warm or lukewarm water; - Under lukewarm running water.
- Never thaw or heat breastmilk in a microwave as microwaving can destroy nutrients in breastmilk and create hotspots which can burn a baby’s mouth.
- If thawing in a refrigerator, use within 24 hours
- Once breast milk is brought to room temperature or warmed, use it within two hours
- Never re-freeze breastmilk after it has thawed.
- Breast milk does not need to be warmed. It can be served room temperature or cold.
- If you decide to warm the breast milk: - Keep the container sealed. - Place the sealed container into a bowl of warm water or hold it under warm, but not hot, running water for a few minutes. - Test the milk’s temperature before feeding it to your baby by putting a few drops on your wrist.
- Swirl the breast milk to mix the fat, which may have separated.
- If your baby does not finish their bottle, use the leftover milk within two hours after the baby is finished feeding. After two hours, leftover breast milk should be discarded
Breastfeed or Bust!
Understandably, motherhood can be a scary time with lots of uncertainties — after all, every mother just wants what’s best for their child. If you are still on the fence about breastfeeding just know that there is a growing movement amongst the healthcare community to encourage and support women to breastfeed and help create a healthier future for children. For assistance, information, and resources to help you get started and stay on track with breastfeeding, there are several organizations that work to help all mothers as they embark on this amazing journey with their children. You can visit them online at the following links: