Breast milk is widely acknowledged as the most complete form of nutrition for infants, with a range of benefits for infants’ health, growth, immunity and development. - Healthy People 2010, Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA.
In a day and time as we are in now, that statement should be on the forefront of all our minds. Many people struggle to work and to meet a budget. Breastfeeding makes for a healthy community and a community that relies on its natural resources. Not only does breastfeeding provide resistance to disease and infection early in life, but it also provides huge cost and medical savings.
Breastfeeding has shown to strengthen the immune system. Mother’s milk has special antibodies to create a gut protection in our babies to help them resist infection and improve the normal immune response. This healthy infant saves family huge medical expenses.
In one study, done by the Natural Resource Defense Council, a group of formula fed infants had 4 times the amount of health care costs, while an equal number of breast fed babies had less. This would include diarrhea, ear infections, allergies, dental cavities, obesity, diabetes, and behavioral and learning disabilities.
Breast milk has the perfect balance of nutrients for our babies. It is encouraged by the American Academy of Pediatrics, to be the only food offered in the first 6 months, with a slow introduction of iron enriched foods after that. The longer a mother breastfeeds, the more likely her child will get the health benefits of breastfeeding.
The benefits mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg. Breastfeeding also has numerous benefits for the mother. A mom’s confidence increases as she provides all the nutrients that her child needs and results in fewer feelings of anxiety and a stronger sense of connection with her baby. This feeling sets the health and mental health of both baby and mother for years to come. Not only is she more confident, but breastfeeding has health benefits for her too. Breastfeeding decreases the risk of breast and uterine cancers, she loses weight more naturally and her uterus returns to normal size more quickly, and her risk of developing osteoporosis is decreased.
Halifax Health thoroughly implements these facts. We encourage breastfeeding with our Prepared Childbirth classes and a class to specifically support and encourage breastfeeding. A new “What’s Next”, breastfeeding support group was implemented last year. We know that reaching out to the new family in the first 4 weeks greatly improves the breastfeeding success. Being in a group of like minded moms with similar issues builds a strong community.
Moms can be encouraged in that setting or they can come in “one on one”, with a Lactation Consultant. Once the baby is born, the family is encouraged to stay together, with mom, so she can respond to the baby’s needs and feed frequently and sleep frequently. We have recently implemented lactation support on the weekends so we can meet as many needs as possible.
To support our moms, we also educate our staff. A breastfeeding policy is in place that is routinely communicated to all health care staff. We also give back to our community with “Baby Shower” Health Fairs to educate the people that we serve.