Breastfeeding is a personal choice for every new mother. For many women, the health advantages drive their decision to give their baby breast milk. From a variety of studies, researchers have discovered that the cells, hormones and antibodies in breastmilk offer babies significant protection from illness. This includes lower risks of:
- Childhood obesity
- Ear infections
- Intestinal infections
- Lower respiratory infections
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- Type 2 diabetes
Along with providing these health benefits, breastfeeding also offers protection to women by reducing their risk of type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and ovarian cancer (source: Womenshealth.gov). It also helps many women get back to their pre-pregnancy weight quicker.
Making the Decision to Breastfeed
Because breastfeeding is beneficial to both women and their babies, many healthcare providers, including Northwell Health, offer breastfeeding support services. At Northwell Health hospitals, prenatal breastfeeding classes introduce the basics of breastfeeding to expectant parents to help them establish a healthy breastfeeding relationship with their baby.
“This highly informative class not only helps women learn about the many benefits of breastfeeding, it also gives them confidence that will help them significantly once their baby is born,” says Cynthia McKie-Addy, Director of Patient Care Services – Maternal Child at North Shore University Hospital.
Immediately following delivery, skin-to-skin contact between the mother and infant is important to establish breastfeeding. This is one reason why Northwell Health encourages well babies to remain in new mothers’ rooms (rooming-in). Certified Lactation Counselors are also available for all new mothers around the clock to provide breastfeeding support.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants should be fed breast milk exclusively for the first six months of life, and breastfeeding should continue through at least the first year. While approximately three out of four new mothers start out breastfeeding, only 13 percent are exclusively breastfeeding by the time their baby is six months old (source: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development). There are many reasons why women do not follow the suggested recommendations, which include fatigue, lack of support within the family, work responsibilities and caring for older children.
“Many factors can influence a mother’s successful breastfeeding,” says Cynthia. “She requires support from her family, community, employer and medical professionals.”
As new research continues to be published about the benefits of breastfeeding, more is being done to support new mothers in their decision to breastfeed. This includes government policies, such as New York’s recent legislation ordering some city agencies to have breastfeeding rooms available for new mothers. As well, a growing number of employers are adding benefits for breastfeeding women, such as offering dedicated breastfeeding spaces, time for pumping or nursing and refrigerated storage for breastmilk. The benefits for employers who support breastfeeding include greater retention, lower healthcare costs, improved workplace satisfaction and less absenteeism.
With growing acceptance of breastfeeding and more support for women who have made the decision to give their babies the benefits of breast milk, it’s likely that more women will choose to breastfeed. With these positive changes, Northwell Health continues to be dedicated to helping women and their babies achieve the best possible breastfeeding experience.
Katz Institute for Women’s Health is here to answer your questions about breastfeeding. Contact the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-KIWH (5494) or email@example.com to reach a women’s health specialist.