August 1 – 7 is celebrated each year as World Breastfeeding Week.
By Danielle Roberts, M.D.
Pediatric Resident, PGY3
Baylor College of Medicine
The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio
Welcoming a new baby can be one of the most exciting and sometimes scary experiences in a lifetime. Parents may plan for months, starting with pregnancy announcement ideas, scheduling maternity and paternity leave, preparing baby’s room… the list goes on. With one more precious mouth to feed, it’s also important to think about what the baby will eat. You may have heard about some of the benefits of breastfeeding—did you know there are dozens of reasons why breastfeeding is recommended over formula?
Let’s go over 10 reasons pediatricians recommend breastfeeding:
- Breastfeeding can help to protect your baby from getting sick. Giving your baby only breast milk for the first 4-6 months of age can lower the chances that your baby will get certain infections. Some of these may involve the lungs, ears, or intestines.
- Breastfed babies are less likely to weigh too much for their height later on. When breastfed babies become teenagers and adults, they have a lower chance of having obesity than babies who are not breastfed.
- Breastfeeding can help protect your baby from having diabetes later on. Babies who only have breast-milk for the first 3 months of age have less chances of having both types 1 and 2 diabetes down the road.
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), sometimes called “crib death,” happens less often in breast fed babies. Even when breastfed babies get formula supplementation, they still have lower rates of SIDS than babies who are never breastfed.
- Breastfeeding can help to prevent against certain childhood cancers. It is less likely for breastfed babies to get blood cancers like childhood leukemia and lymphoma, when compared to babies who are not breastfed.
- Babies who are breastfed are less likely to have allergic disease. Breastfeeding can help to prevent babies from later having asthma and eczema.
- Premature babies, or those born early, who are given breast milk have a better chance of survival. This is partly because breast milk helps prevent babies from getting certain illnesses.
- Breastfeeding moms have a lower chance of getting certain cancers in the future. It is less likely for a mom who breastfeeds to have breast cancer and cancer of the ovaries later on than for a mom who doesn’t breastfeed.
- Breastfeeding can help moms and babies bond. There are hormones that are made during breastfeeding, oxytocin and prolactin, that can help develop the bond between moms and their babies.
- Breastfeeding your baby can save you cash. First of all, breast milk is free! Also, with less likelihood of your baby getting certain illnesses, this also might mean less sick visits to pediatricians, and less time taken off work by parents.
If you can’t breastfeed or there are other reasons breastfeeding isn’t the best choice for you and your baby, it’s okay. Formula isn’t harmful, and it has all the calories and nutrients your baby needs.
Questions about breastfeeding? You can ask your pediatrician, or refer to your local WIC office for 24-hour assistance with breastfeeding (www.texaswic.org). The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio WIC 24-Hour Breastfeeding Warm Line (text messages available) accepts text messages at 210.857.4794.