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4 things to know about breastfeeding

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SIU Medicine supports and encourages all breastfeeding mothers and nursing parents in our communities. As we honor National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, we encourage you to learn more about this important topic and find out how you can support a loved one who is currently breastfeeding.

Here are four useful facts about breastfeeding we’d like to share. 

1. Experts recommend breast milk during the first six months of a baby's life.

Both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend that babies are fed exclusively breast milk for the first six months of their lives. 

However, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most (60 percent) of mothers don't breastfeed for as long as they intend.

2. Breastfeeding benefits mom and baby.

Experts strongly recommend breastfeeding because research is clear about how beneficial it is—not only for the nursing baby, but also for the mother or nursing parent. 

For babies, breastfeeding has been shown to: 

  • Promote bonding
  • Provide antibodies that protect against common illnesses
  • Improve brain development
  • Benefit digestion and healthy gut bacteria
  • Reduce the risk of health problems later in life, including certain allergies, asthma, leukemia, Celiac disease, diabetes, childhood obesity and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

For mothers, breastfeeding has been shown to: 

  • Assist with postpartum weight loss
  • Promote bonding
  • Reduce the risk of health problems like breast cancer, cervical cancer, hypertension, rheumatoid arthritis and cardiovascular disease
  • Provide a more cost-effective solution to nursing compared to formula feeding 

According to the AAP, breastfeeding also benefits the environment because it incurs none of the pollution nor energy costs associated with manufacturing infant formula. 

3. Many nursing parents face barriers to breastfeeding.

Despite being so beneficial, breastfeeding isn't always easy. According to the CDC, many mothers and nursing parents do not end up nursing their children as long as they want to because of challenges such as: 

  • Problems with lactation and latching
  • Unsupportive families, peer groups and cultural norms
  • Stigma
  • Concerns about infant growth and development
  • Concerns about taking medication while breastfeeding
  • Unsupportive practices and policies within the workplace or hospital 
  • Younger maternal age 

Sociodemographic factors can also pose as a barrier to breastfeeding. For example, infants who are eligible for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) are less likely to ever be breastfed compared to infants who are ineligible. And infants from rural communities are less likely to be breastfed than infants from urban communities.

4. You can help breastfeeding mothers in your community.

If you or someone you know is struggling with breastfeeding, here are some things you can do to help:

  • Learn about different health care professionals in your area who are trained to help parents breastfeed, including International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs), Certified Lactation Counselors (CLCs), CBEs (Certified Breastfeeding Educators (CBEs) or doulas
  • Ask your health care provider about local mother-to-mother support groups or breastfeeding peer counselors
  • Contact with local hospital lactation staff 
  • Search for local breast milk donor programs 
  • Visit the CDC's website and explore resources made available by The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding
  • Connect with local breastfeeding task forces and coalitions
  • Show your support to a breastfeeding mother in other ways (e.g., bringing them nourishing meals, offering to babysit older children, gifting them a housekeeping service)

Are you a breastfeeding individual looking for support? 

Visit siumed.org/doctor to explore our list of providers who can help you and your baby enjoy the benefits of breastfeeding. 

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