Benefits to Baby
Breastmilk includes more than 200 known ingredients customized to each baby’s needs, thus protecting a breastfed baby from many diseases and illnesses. Research has shown that infants and children who are breastfed are at a lower risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), infections of the ear, respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract and urinary tract, asthma, allergies, and meningitis.
Breastfeeding can also decrease an infant’s future risk of obesity. According to a study in The American Journal of Epidemiology, breastfeeding for one month reduces an infant’s risk for obesity by four percent, while breastfeeding through nine months reduces the rate of future obesity by 30 percent.
Benefits to Mother
The baby isn’t the only one to benefit from breastfeeding. Breastfeeding mothers also experience numerous benefits, such as a lower risk of postpartum depression, heart disease, breast and ovarian cancers, osteoporosis and diabetes.
“Ideally, mothers should breastfeed their babies exclusively for the first six months, with a goal of continuing breastfeeding for at least the first year,” said Evelyn Landry of the Acadiana Breastfeeding Coalition.
Benefits to Community
The most evident benefit to the community is the cost of breastfeeding versus formula feeding. It currently costs approximately $1,200 per year to formula feed an infant in the United States. If you factor in added medical costs or hypoallergenic formula, the costs are considerably more.
Breastfeeding families have healthier children, which leads to less absenteeism at work and higher productivity for companies.
Breastfeeding also reduces health insurance premiums, enhances the effectiveness of vaccines, thus promoting a healthier environment at schools and daycares, and reduces global pollution by decreasing the use of resources and energy required to produce, process, package, distribute and dispose of formula.
Despite the numerous benefits, however, Louisiana has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the nation, with only 53 percent of women having ever breastfed their babies, according to the 2007 Louisiana Pregnancy Risk Assessment and Monitoring System data.
Directly related to the state’s low breastfeeding percentage is Louisiana’s infant mortality rate, which is one of the highest in the nation.
“Many women don’t breastfeed because they lack community support,” said Marci Brewer Asling, statewide coordinator for Louisiana’s The GIFT (Guided Infant Feeding Techniques), a program to increase hospital support for breastfeeding.
“There is a lot that we can all do to support breastfeeding. Physicians and health care providers can praise mothers and encourage them to seek help if they have concerns. Hospitals can implement best practices. Employers can provide accommodations so that employees can express their milk, communities can welcome breastfeeding mothers, and families can help mothers by praising her and assisting with other household chores.”
Breastfeeding mother Hope Granger noted, “Once I heard about the benefits of breastfeeding, not breastfeeding was not an option for my family. I thought mothers with sick babies needed the help of a lactation nurse, but I realized that I deserved help, too.”
Fellow breastfeeding mother Nicole Bue-Perkins agrees, “I formula-fed my firstborn and breastfed my second child for nine months. Being a dietetics major at UL Lafayette and learning about all of the benefits of breastfeeding after my firstborn, I knew it was the best option for my family.”
Louisiana law protects breastfeeding and states that a mother may breastfeed her baby in any public place, and prohibits any child care facility from discriminating against breastfed babies. The recent U.S. health care legislation also recognizes breastfeeding as the natural outcome of pregnancy and requires employers to provide breastfeeding employees with “reasonable break time” and a private, non-bathroom place to express breast milk during the workday, up until the child’s first birthday.
Individuals searching for breastfeeding resources are encouraged to visit ZipMilk Louisiana (www.zipmilk.org). The Web site is a community service of the Louisiana Breastfeeding Coalition and provides listings for breastfeeding resources based on an individual’s ZIP code.
The Acadiana Breastfeeding Coalition is a group of health care professionals, lactation consultants and individuals who believe in protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding as the norm.