By Terry Kanakri
Are you an expectant mother, or a woman who’s recently given birth and is not convinced breastfeeding your baby is something you need to do?
According to experts, think again!
With August being National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, the answer in almost all cases is an unequivocal yes, according to research and multiple studies.
“Breastfeeding your child should always be your first choice as it’s by far the best option for your baby’s health,” said Dr. Liz Diaz-Querol with Kaiser Permanente Southern California. “Breastfeeding will help ensure that your child can grow up healthy, and it will also lower your child’s risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Additionally, it’s also likely to help protect your child from other health problems such as infections, obesity and diabetes.”
The benefits of breastfeeding are not exclusively beneficial to the child, but also offer health benefits to the mother.
“Breastfeeding mothers are more likely to recover sooner from pregnancy, labor and delivery,” Dr. Diaz-Querol explained. “Women who breastfeed are also more apt to lower their risk for certain serious health problems, such as breast cancer.”
According to Dr. Diaz-Querol, breast milk is the only food most babies need until about six months of age. Until then, babies don’t need to be given baby food, water or juice, she noted. Dr. Diaz-Querol encouraged mothers to ask their doctors when they should start feeding their baby solid foods.
As your baby starts to eat other food, women are likely to gradually breastfeed less often, she explained. However, women should continue breastfeeding their child for as long as they and their baby want to, she noted, adding: “Your baby will continue to get health benefits from breast milk past the first year.”
Can all women breastfeed?
Almost all mothers of newborns are able to breastfeed. “Even if you have a health problem such as diabetes, or if you’ve had breast surgery, you can likely still breastfeed,” Dr. Diaz-Querol noted. But, some women should not breastfeed, such as those who are HIV-positive or have active tuberculosis.
Dr. Diaz-Querol encouraged mothers not to give up quickly on breastfeeding, noting it’s a learned skill.
“You’ll get better at it with practice,” she explained. “My advice is to be patient with yourself and your baby. If you have trouble, doctors, nurses and lactation consultants can all help. So can friends, family and breastfeeding support groups.”
Kaiser Permanente offers valuable breastfeeding tips to mothers. [Read more here.]
About the author: Terry Kanakri is a Senior Media Relations Specialist at Kaiser Permanente Southern California Region.