Breastfeeding

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More American women are breastfeeding their babies, according to a study released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). From 2000 to 2008, the percentage of new mothers who breastfed their newborns rose from 70.3 percent to 74.6 percent. Although that's only a 4.2 increase, it's still a good sign. Also encouraging is the 9.9 percent rise in the number of American women who were breastfeeding at six months and the 7.4 percent rise in the number of who were breastfeeding at 12 months. However, it isn't known how many of those women were breastfeeding exclusively at six months. Research has shown that there are many contributing factors to the low rate of breastfeeding in the US. These factors include insufficient support for breastfeeding on maternity wards, forceful marketing techniques by formula companies, little to no paid maternity leaves, lack of nursing accommodations from employers, and negative social views towards breastfeeding.

Despite these barriers, breastfeeding offers a multitude of health benefits to both infant and mother and is an essential step in the process of growing a healthy baby. Breast milk is the perfect source of nutrition for a baby, it contains just the right balance of nutrients to help an infant grow into a strong and healthy child, with many different advantages which cannot be replicated by any laboratory formula. According to The World Health Organization (WHO) breastfeeding is recommended as the only form of food or drink until a baby reaches six months of age, and it adds that breastfeeding can be a supplemental food source for children up to two years old and older. Not only does breast milk give infants all the nutrients they need for healthy development, it also contains antibodies that help protect them from common illnesses such as pneumonia and diarrhea, the WHO says.

The first milk breasts produce during pregnancy is called colostrum, which is very high in protein fluid and fat-soluble vitamins and contains anti-bacterial and anti-viral agents which are vital for helping to protect the baby against infection. Approximately 0.25-0.5 grams per day of secretory IgA antibodies pass to the baby via the milk. This is one of the most important features of colostrum. Breasts produce this for the first few days after birth to help a newborn’s digestive system to grow and function before it is replaced by the transitional milk. Colostrum is full of these antibodies and immunoglobulins, which help a newborn’s immune system fight off sickness until their own immune system matures. It also protects newborns against bacterial and viral illnesses and has a laxative effect that helps expel the tarry first stools called meconium. This clears excess bilirubin and helps prevent jaundice.

Studies have shown that breast milk has many disease killing properties. It protects against HIB and Meningitis, it protects against HIB for up to 10 years after the stop of breastfeeding. 'For each week of breast feeding, the protection improved.' (Journal of Epidemiology) Tropical Pediatrics also found significant amounts of antibodies in breast milk to whooping cough, HIB, strep B infection, and meningitis. 'Samples may indicate a protective role for breast milk against the four infections of early childhood.' (Tropical Pediatrics) Babies who are breastfed have less gas, fewer feeding problems, and often less constipation than those given formulas. Breastfeeding also reduces the baby's risk of having asthma or allergies, and plays a role in the prevention of sudden infant death syndrome. (The AAP) Babies who are breastfed exclusively for the first six months have fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses, and bouts of diarrhea. They also have fewer trips to the doctor. The protection given from breast milk is exclusive; no other substance can match the chemical make-up of human breast milk. In fact, among formula-fed babies, ear infections and diarrhea are more common. Formula-fed...
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