Motherhood isn’t easy. Being a mother means staying up all night with a sick child, cleaning up endless messes, and changing diapers at the most inconvenient times. What makes these sacrifices worthwhile is the joy we get from seeing our children healthy, happy and successful. Like losing sleep, cleaning spills, and changing diapers, breastfeeding can be inconvenient. But breastfeeding is one inconvenience whose benefits far outweigh the costs.
World Breastfeeding Week, observed August 1-7, 2008, aims to spread awareness of the benefits and importance of breastfeeding. The theme of this year’s celebration is Mother Support: Going for the Gold, mirroring the Olympic Games. “The Gold” in this case is breastfeeding, often called the “gold standard of infant feeding.”
So what makes breastfeeding the gold standard? “One of the greatest advantages of breast milk is that it is natural and babies rarely have reactions to their mother’s milk”, says Lyndy Peterson, Lactation Consultant at Sanford Health. Even when infants do have reactions, the mother can easily fix the problem by changing her diet. “Breast milk also provides widespread, long-lasting health benefits to both mother and child”, states Peterson.
Benefits to the Child
It is recommended that mothers breastfeed their children exclusively for six months, with continual breastfeeding for up to two years. Initially, breastfeeding helps infants grow and develop properly, providing them with the vitamins and nutrients that are essential to their overall health. Breast milk also contains disease-fighting ingredients that protect infants from illnesses such as leukemia, type 1 diabetes, and ear infections. Such protection extends into adolescence and adulthood, reducing the risk of allergies and obesity.
Benefits to the Mother
The infant isn’t the only one to reap the benefits of breastfeeding. New mothers will be glad to hear that breastfeeding burns extra calories, helping them shed extra weight from pregnancy. Furthermore, breastfeeding reduces the risk of ovarian cancer, breast cancer, and post-menopausal osteoporosis.
The cost of buying formula adds up fast—Americans spend $2 billion each year on milk substitutes! Add to this the extra time spent measuring and mixing formula, and the nuisance of using milk alternatives becomes clear.
Society can garner economic benefits from breastfeeding, as well, since $3.6 to 7 billion is spent annually on diseases and infections that could be prevented by breastfeeding.
In the end, the advantages of breastfeeding far outweigh its inconveniences. So next time your baby’s hungry cry wakes you in the night, remember the countless benefits that mother, child, and society reap from breastfeeding. Perhaps it won’t seem like such a sacrifice after all.
To learn more about Sanford Health’s Breastfeeding Assistance Program and their group of Board Certified Lactation Consultants, call 605.328.5589.