Breastfeeding: It’s More Than Just Food

                "Breast is best” is a phrase used everywhere to promote breastfeeding. Although that’s true, breastfeeding is best for a multitude of reasons, and it’s not just as simple as saying "breast is best”. The benefits of breastfeeding seem to be endless, as scientists are continuously discovering more. Although breast milk has incredible nutritious properties, it doesn’t stop there. Breastfeeding is way more than just food. Breastfeeding provides babies with disease protection, makes them feel secure, and also has fantastic benefits for the mother!

               In the first days of breastfeeding, moms have colostrum, which is often called "baby’s first vaccine.” This is because colostrum is so rich in antibodies, it helps protect babies from diseases, during infancy, and into adulthood. But the protection doesn’t stop there! As babies continue to breastfeed, and mom’s milk turns from colostrum to mature milk, babies are still provided with antibodies through mom’s milk. The best part is that breast milk is a living substance and it changes daily. When a baby nurses, their saliva communicates with the mother’s body, and tells her body what germs the baby has been exposed to. Then, the mother’s milk will make antibodies to help protect her baby from those germs. A mother’s breast milk is tailor fitted just for her baby and it changes as baby’s needs change.

               Breastfeeding also helps babies feel secure. Babies are born into the world, after living their entire existence in the womb. This opens up their senses to new smells, sounds, sights, etc. All of the stimuli they experience can overwhelm a baby and being at the mother’s breast is comforting to them. This benefits both the baby and the mother! For the mother, it is a simple means of calming her baby, as well as a great way for bonding. For the baby, the security they feel is great for their emotional and mental development. When a baby feels their needs are met, and they feel secure, studies have shown that it actually makes them more independent as they grow.

               Mothers also benefit greatly from breastfeeding! This isn’t just because breastfeeding is free, simpler, and convenient, but it also provides her with health benefits! Breastfeeding burns approximately 500 calories per day, so it helps moms return to their pre-pregnancy weight faster. But not only does it burn calories, it provides disease protection! Breastfeeding helps reduce a woman’s risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer, and some studies even show that it may help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

               The benefits of breastfeeding seem to be never-ending. It will provide both mom and baby with benefits that last a lifetime! For many mothers, they have the desire to breastfeed, because they know how powerful breast milk is, but they can trouble finding proper support. If you need breastfeeding support, the WIC program, at the Clark County Health Department, offers the Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program to assist pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. Also, we offer monthly breastfeeding classes that are free and open to the public.  Our next class will be held on August 21stfrom 11am-12pm. Class Topic: Pumping and Returning to Work.  Park in the lower level parking lot, class held in the downstairs conference room.  For more information, call (859)744-4482.

By: Kayla Sellers, Breastfeeding Peer Counselor