The enormous health benefits of breast-feeding for children and mothers cannot be disputed. However, all across the country, discrimination and shaming still plague women who do so, especially in the workplace and in public. Greater public awareness is necessary to increase acceptance. To learn more, check out this infographic sponsored by Bradley University’s Online Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner (MSN-FNP) program.
A Guide to the Health Benefits of Breast-feeding
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Breast-feeding in America
The World Health Organization (WHO) has done a great deal of research on the subject of breast-feeding. This highly reputable organization recommends that mothers exclusively breast-feed their babies for at least six months. Unfortunately, the current situation is far from the ideal. A survey conducted by WHO found that up to 77 percent of infants were initiated breastfeeding by their parents. A good portion of infants were breast-fed until they were six months old, and half of those continued on until they reached their first birthday. There is clearly a lot more work to be done by advocates.
Of the women who initiated breast-feeding, many modified their habits as early as two months after giving birth. Nearly half admitted that they had used formula to supplement their own milk. About a fifth said that they stopped the activity altogether by that point due to various reasons. This global issue affects children from all walks of life. In a study examining developing countries including Chad, Serbia and the Dominican Republic, only 39 percent of children less than six months of age are exclusively breast-fed. The rest are either partially or fully dependent on other means.
Ways to Feed Your Child
There are four main ways of feeding infants. The ideal scenario, as previously stated, is for them to be exclusively breast-fed during this early stage in their lives. An infant must receive only breast milk with no other liquids or solids being given as supplementation. This restriction includes water with very few exceptions. For instance, prescribed oral rehydration solutions and vitamin drops are allowed. Mothers should stick to their doctor’s recommendations to prevent the development of any illness.
Some parents prefer a mixed-feeding strategy. This method still uses breast milk as the primary source of nutrition for infants under six months, but it usually is combined with other liquids and food. Many parents find this to be a convenient compromise even if it is not an ideal scenario.
Complementary feeding is a process that begins once the mother’s milk alone is no longer sufficient to meet the infant’s nutritional requirements. There is a real need to add solid and liquid foods into the diet in order to meet individual needs.
Artificial or formula feeding is the last method that is commonly used. Infants get a mixture of breast milk and commercial substitutes in an alternate manner. The frequency of each type will depend on the parents’ inclinations, resources, health and so on.
Health Benefits of Breast-feeding
Breast-feeding provides numerous benefits for both children and mothers. For instance, children between six and 23 months who were breast-fed at any time showed better infant mortality compared to others. There was a 50 percent reduction in deaths that were related to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The capacity of breast-feeding to shield babies from this illness by itself makes a strong case for more widespread implementation of this protocol. Children develop better immunity thanks to their mother’s milk.
The benefits of breast-feeding do not stop there. Other health benefits include the decrease in episodes of diarrhea and respiratory infections. The difference is quite remarkable, lowering hospital admissions by 72 percent and 57 percent for these common concerns, respectively. Furthermore, a study of children found that breast-feeding had better outcomes than bottle-feeding in factors like BMI, hyperactivity, scholastic competence and obesity.
When it comes to mothers, research has uncovered that breast-feeding helps women avoid cancer. For each year of breast-feedings, a mother reduces her risk of developing invasive breast cancer by six percent. If people could become more aware of this fact, then it could be possible to decrease a significant portion of the almost 20,000 breast cancer deaths each year. The risk of ovarian cancer, Type 2 diabetes and postpartum depression also significantly drop. In addition, exclusive use of breast-feeding is associated with a natural method of birth control. Those mothers who want to plan their families in a logical manner can use it to space out their pregnancies.
Economic and Environmental Impact
Aside from gaining health benefits, breast-feeding also is known to have a positive economic and environmental impact. Just a 10 percent increase in this activity throughout the country could result in at least $312 million in health care savings. There are so many diseases that could be avoided, freeing up resources to be channeled into more productive endeavors. Researchers also have estimated that at least $14.2 billion in pediatric care and $18.3 billion in maternal health care may be attributed to poor breast-feeding rates. Radical reform could be incredibly beneficial for all given these figures.
It also should be pointed out that breast milk is a natural and renewable food that is environmentally sound. It is produced and delivered to the recipient, in this case the children, without pollution or causing any other harm to nature. There is no unnecessary packaging to worry about, as the product can be directly transferred from producer to consumer. Waste will never be a problem. In contrast, milk substitutes create a great deal of waste every year. The U.S. alone produces 500 million cans, involving 86,000 tons of metal and 364,000 tons of paper, for milk packaging. All of these inevitably make their way to landfills.