Healthy Futures Through Breastfeeding

August 9, 2022

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Sorry Gerber, but a new kind of baby is in town! Maybe they're born with it? Or rather, maybe mommy is born with it? If you're like the majority of Americans, chances are that your relationship with breastfeeding was but a small blip in your infancy. Truly shameful is the numerous ways that parenting and baby care has been negatively impacted through the misconceptions around breastfeeding where it was previously thought to be a lowly practice reserved for the uneducated and under employed. We owe this urban legend to the invention of baby formula dating back to 1960 by German chemist Justus von Leibig. Surely von Leibig couldn't have possibly foreseen the smear campaign that baby formula initiated against breastfeeding, however medical science now confirms the far surpassing benefits of breastfeeding as compared to formula. This is not to say that baby formula is cancelled, as baby formula still plays a very important role for those mothers who struggle with or cannot breastfeed. If you're a mother with options and want to discern what is best for your baby, breastfeeding is the clear winner.

Your Breasts Matter

Only 1 in 4 infants in the United States are exclusively breastfed as recommended by the time they are 6 months old. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans currently recommends that babies be breastfed for at least 6 months and to continue breastfeeding along with introducing complementary foods until the child reaches 12 months and up to 2 years old or longer. Understandably, this is easier said than done as the woman of today is not the woman of yesterday. As more and more women both contribute and support families as a source of income, women face numerous barriers that prevent them from breastfeeding within these guidelines.

It was during the Obama administration through the Affordable Care Act that amended the Fair Labor Standards Act to include protections for nursing mothers. This was through enforcing reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child's birth. In addition, employers now must provide a space for women to express breastmilk other than the bathroom. In addition, the Fairness for Breastfeeding Mothers Act of 2019 required certain public buildings to provide a shielded, hygienic space other than a bathroom for women to express milk.

These are just a few of the ways that public spaces and the workplace have become more inclusive to help America's future generations to have better health outcomes. However, the battle to provide equity to nursing mothers is far from over. New mothers still face several obstacles in keeping their newborn baby health, particularly women who may face job discrimination because of a pregnancy. As well, these breakthroughs in equality for new mothers are less than 10 years old, which means that our nation is still going through a process of unlearning engrained prejudices we might have towards new mothers.

Breastfeed for the Future

The ACA and other new laws to protect breastfeeding mothers do more than provide equality to formerly disenfranchised women, rather the benefits of breastfeeding on a national scale lay the groundwork for a healthier future in the U.S. The health benefits of breastfeeding for infants include reduced risk of asthma, obesity, diabetes, and numerous other common illnesses that infants may have. In addition, women who breastfeed show reduced risk for high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, ovarian cancer and breast cancer. The CDC estimates that some $3 billion dollars a year are lost to medical costs as a result of low rates of breastfeeding. This has led to the ramping up of efforts on a national level to get more mothers to breastfeed, and to get the public uplift new mothers by providing the resources they need to nurse healthier babies for a healthier America.

Support for Breastfeeding Mothers

If you're ready to make the switch to breastfeeding your baby, know that there are number of resources out there so that you can get started down the right path. It's important not to feel shame or be worried that you may or may not know much about breastfeeding. After all, we can thank the many misconceptions on breastfeeding that America has only recently started routing out of public discourse as to why you and many new mothers simply don't have the right tools and information on breastfeeding. For more information on how you can get started check out these helpful resources below:

U.S. Lactation Consultant Association

Office on Women's Health - Breastfeeding

La Leche League

U.S. Department of Agriculture - WIC Breastfeeding Support