The Advantages of Breastfeeding
It’s generally recognized that breastfeeding provides countless benefits for newborn babies. As new mothers are reminded time and again, breast milk is best: not only is it always clean and at the correct temperature, it acts as a natural tranquilizer. Breastfed babies tend to have stronger immune systems; less diarrhea and constipation; fewer colds and ear infections; better vision; and lower rates of infant mortality and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The benefits don’t stop with the end of infancy, either. As kids, breastfed babies have healthier jaw and tooth development, lower rates of respiratory illness and Crohn’s disease, and fewer childhood cancers; as adults, they are less likely to develop heart disease, multiple sclerosis and breast cancer.
Are Breastfed Babies Smarter?
Recent research suggests a possible link between breastfeeding and childhood IQ. A March 2002 study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that infants who were breastfed exclusively until the age of 6 months scored higher on IQ tests as 5-year-olds than did children who had had formula or solids as babies. Many doctors believe that certain nutrients in breast milk (DHA and other fats, for example) contribute to brain growth and development. Of course, no study could absolutely prove that mothers who breastfeed will have more intelligent children, but this one certainly has some powerful implications. According to Dr. Duane Alexander, director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the NIH study “provides strong evidence that breastfeeding for the first six months benefits the cognitive development of both small and normal-size infants.”
Payoff for New Moms
Amidst all this overwhelming research, it might seem that infants are the only ones who prosper from breastfeeding. But don’t be fooled! Many doctors believe that mothers who breastfeed reap health benefits of their own. Studies by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National Institutes of Health and the University of Michigan Health System suggest that women who breastfeed are at a lower risk for developing breast, ovarian and uterine cancer, and that they develop osteoporosis less frequently. Breastfeeding promotes faster weight loss after birth (since it takes 500 extra calories to build and maintain a milk supply), stimulates the uterus to contract and return to normal size, and leads to fewer urinary tract infections and less postpartum bleeding. Doctors also believe it leads to increased calmness, self-esteem and confidence, since the naturally soothing hormones oxytocin and prolactin are produced.
“Mother’s Own Milk”™: The Facts
The M.O.M. Mother’s Own Milk™ Survey, conducted by PKS Research Partners and sponsored by Playtex Products, Inc., found that 75 percent of women with children under 5 have breastfed their kids. Of the 300 mothers interviewed, those surveyed indicated the following reasons for breastfeeding:
- 100 percent: health benefits to the baby.
- 94 percent: good way to bond with your child.
- 71 percent: health benefits to the mother.
- 69 percent: cheaper than formula.
- 63 percent: recommendation of healthcare professional.
- 60 percent: more convenient than formula.
- 52 percent: good way to lose weight after pregnancy.
Transitioning Back to the Working World
The Playtex M.O.M™ Survey found that 50 percent of breastfeeding mothers returned to work when their babies were less than 3 months old, but that only 15 percent of their companies provided a dedicated lactation room for expressing milk. But this shouldn’t keep breastfeeding mothers who worked before they gave birth from heading back to their jobs. The Breastfeeding Book (Little, Brown & Co.) by Martha Sears, RN, and William Sears, M.D., suggests waiting at least six weeks before returning to work. Two weeks ahead of time, the new mother should practice with her breast pump and begin freezing her milk. Her baby should get used to having someone else provide the breast milk in a bottle. Establishing a routine is important, too; mothers should nurse before leaving home and again before leaving the caregiver. They also suggest visiting and feeding the baby during lunch breaks, if possible, and nursing after work and on demand in the evening and throughout the night.
Avoiding Workplace Woes
Mothers who return to work but still want to breastfeed should always remember: it’s illegal to discriminate against a woman because she’s breastfeeding. It is important to remind employers that breastfed babies are healthier, which means that their mothers need to take fewer sick days to care for them. If you’re heading back to your job, get your boss’s approval ahead of time to pump your breasts on breaks and during your lunch (plan for this to take about 10-15 minutes). Milk can be stored in a small cooler in the refrigerator. Experts suggest that working moms give breastfeeding at least a 30-day trial period; ideally, they recommend that babies are breastfed for the first year of life.
Daycare Dos and Don’ts
When you return to your job, it’s crucial to have a caregiver or daycare center that’s supportive of breastfeeding. Make arrangements before your baby is born, and talk to other mothers whose children are in the program. Leave your baby at the daycare center for several short periods so that the caregivers and your child can get to know one another, and agree in advance about what they should use as a substitute if they run out of the breast milk you’ve pumped. Leave simple written instructions on how to thaw and warm your milk, and be sure to show your appreciation for how hard the staff of the daycare center is working. The more confident you are about the people taking care of your children, the easier it’ll be for you to get through the work day.
Just For Breastfeeding Moms
In order to facilitate women’s efforts to breastfeed efficiently and effectively for as long as their babies need them to, Playtex has launched the M.O.M. Mother’s Own Milk™ Program. Participants receive educational materials about breastfeeding in the mail, including practical breastfeeding tips and suggestions to help working mothers continue breastfeeding. Lactation professionals can sign up for free by calling (800)830-1777 or by e-mailing [email protected].