August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month! For many of you, this may not seem like relevant news, but read on to find out why it is. If you are not feeding a baby yourself, you might be in a position where you can support someone who is. Whether you are a partner, spouse, family member, employer, friend, co-worker, or neighbor - you are in a position to make lactation easier.
Many know the relevant facts about the benefits of human milk. Numerous major health organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend exclusive breastfeeding/chestfeeding for the first 6 months of an infant’s life; not only is it a great source of nutrition for babies, it protects them against an array of illnesses and infections. Babies who are fed in this way have less chance of developing asthma, obesity, and diabetes. They are also less likely to have stomach viruses and ear infections, among other conditions. Because human milk includes the parent’s antibodies, it supports babies’ immune systems which also keeps them healthy. For the breastfeeding or chestfeeding parent, the act of feeding is protective against some cancers, diabetes, and high blood pressure. It also supports the emotional bond between the parent and baby.
To be fair, not every parent can feed their baby in this way. For these parents, availability of and access to other options such as donor human milk or standard infant formula are critical. Standard infant formulas in the United States are regulated, safe, and nutritious.
Although we have been led to believe that the act of breastfeeding or chestfeeding is natural and intuitive, there are times when additional support is needed to help the parent know they are doing it right. Sometimes, the baby needs help learning to latch onto the nipple and the parent needs to make sure that adequate nourishment is getting to the baby. Sometimes milk production is affected by conditions outside the control of the parent, such as not having a break at work to pump milk if the baby is not nearby. Sometimes the parent simply needs a glass of water because nursing can be dehydrating. Sometimes there are other issues that the help of an expert can solve. Whatever your role, think about how you may support someone who is nursing.
If you need some ideas or help getting questions answered, a great place to start is with the New Mexico Breastfeeding Taskforce.
Visit them online at breastfeedingnm.org or call (505) 395-MILK.
Thank you for helping New Mexico families give their babies a healthy start!