UK HealthCare specialist discusses what you should know about breastfeeding
August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, a great occasion to highlight the benefits of breastfeeding and provide support and information for new and expectant mothers. At UK HealthCare, we offer an abundance of resources aimed at helping parents learn about breastfeeding and successfully navigate the nursing process.
We recently spoke with UK HealthCare’s Cindy Crissman, RN, a lactation specialist at Kentucky Children’s Hospital, about the benefits of breastfeeding and how expectant parents should prepare.
Is breastfeeding more beneficial than bottle feeding?
Breast milk contains a long list of germ-fighting ingredients. One teaspoon of breastmilk contains approximately 10,000 living cells. These cells provide the best tailor-made nutrition for a baby. Formula companies cannot duplicate these ingredients.
Babies are born without a strong immune system and they depend on their Mother’s milk to protect them. Breastfed babies get extra protection from antibodies, other proteins and immune cells that are in human milk. If a Mother is fighting a cold, her body is making antibodies against that bacteria or virus. When she breastfeeds her baby, she passes those antibodies directly to the baby through her breast milk. This provides the baby with additional protection from infection.
How is breastfeeding beneficial to the child?
The immune components in breast milk help protect babies from allergens in the first months of life. This leads to a decreased risk of asthma and allergies. Babies who are breastfed have fewer ear infections and less chance of upper respiratory illness, digestive diseases and childhood cancers.
Breastfeeding helps prevent childhood obesity and lowers the risk of juvenile diabetes. Babies learn early to listen to their bodies and when they feel full they stop feeding.
If a mother who has been vaccinated against COVID-19 breastfeeds, how can that benefit the child?
The breast milk of Mothers who have been vaccinated for COVID-19 contain antibodies against the virus. This is one of the many ways that breastfeeding protects your baby.
How is breastfeeding beneficial to the mother?
When a Mother is breastfeeding her body releases the hormone oxytocin. In the first several days after delivery, oxytocin helps her uterus to shrink down and control postpartum bleeding. A Mother is burning an extra 500 calories a day when breastfeeding — that’s like swimming 30 laps in a swimming pool.
Breastfeeding reduces a woman's risk of breast, ovarian and uterine cancers. Breastfeeding also fights the development of osteoporosis and helps lower the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that families will save around $400 by breastfeeding in the first year. The cost to formula feed is around $1,200/year.
If the decision is made to breastfeed, how should parents prepare before their baby is born?
Taking a class devoted to breastfeeding education is always helpful. Sign up with our Childbirth Educator to take our class, “Nursing Your Infant.” We also have a breastfeeding app, BreastBeginnings. Families should download the app prenatally and begin to familiarize themselves with the wealth of information it provides. Planning for follow-up care is also important. Our “Mommy & Me Breastfeeding Clinic” at Kentucky Clinic South is available Monday - Friday.
I believe it is important for parents to surround themselves with others who have successfully breastfed. Having a good support network will help build confidence.
What more should be done to make it easier for mothers to breastfeed when outside the home?
Mothers should have the freedom to breastfeed where they are comfortable. They should not be made to feel unwelcome when in a public setting and their baby becomes hungry. It would be wonderful if there were more spaces designated for breastfeeding mothers.
If you see a Mother breastfeeding in public, offer her encouragement and praise.
What else should people know about breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding is more than tailor-made nutrition for your baby. It is a wonderful bonding time between mother and child. In the first three months of life, babies depend on the closeness and skin-to-skin contact breastfeeding provides. This will help optimize their brain development.
For more information, visit UK HealthCare’s breastfeeding support web page by clicking here. You can sign up for our Nursing Your Infant class at UK Good Samaritan Hospital by calling 859-323-2750.