Health Matters: Benefits of Breastfeeding and Supporting Mom on Her Journey

Becoming a mom is a wonderful, and at times, daunting transition. The endless to-do list as you prep for baby and the deluge of information can be overwhelming. There are so many decisions to make and things to learn – for new and seasoned moms alike.

At the top of that list for many is deciding how they’ll feed their baby. Breastfeeding, or nursing, is a personal choice that has numerous benefits for baby and mom. Breastfeeding your newborn can reduce their risk of obesity, type 1 diabetes, ear infections, severe lower respiratory disease, and even lower sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) deaths. According to the WHO, establishing exclusive breastfeeding also helps young children grow, prevents undernutrition, and promotes brain development and improved dental health.

Breastfeeding is also a newborn’s first vaccine, providing vital antibodies from mom that help boost baby’s immunity. For mom, there has been a correlation between breastfeeding and reduced risks of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their lives before introducing nutritious solid foods. Still, while the experience of breastfeeding can be rewarding beyond measure, it is one that takes persistence and patience.

That is why support is key. There are many ways to support a breastfeeding mom to help her on her journey:

  • Help with nighttime feedings: If your partner is breastfeeding, you can still help late night by changing the baby’s diaper and burping and rocking the baby at the end of the feeding. You can both still be part of the feeding process.
  • Offer encouragement: Give mom an extra boost with encouraging words. Cheering her on can give her the confidence she needs to keep going.
  • Limit Visitors: Rest is essential for new moms, as is time to bond with baby and establish their breastfeeding journey. Sometimes that’s easier to do without an influx of visitors in the early days at home.
  • Take on other chores: Putting in some extra work to manage the laundry, cleaning, cooking, and other chores/errands can be a huge help by allowing mom to focus on her new little one’s needs.
  • Make feeding accessible: Having a comfortable, accessible place for moms to feed their babies or pump is also a huge support on their journey.

Seeking the help of certified lactation consultants can also be an incredible support along the breastfeeding journey. Whether it’s in the first hours at the hospital or you’re nearing your baby’s first birthday, lactation consultants can help you feel supported throughout your journey.

Every August, we celebrate National Breastfeeding Month to promote the benefits of breastfeeding and provide support for babies, mothers, families, and local communities. This August, we encourage you to learn more about the benefits of nursing and how you can support new moms on their journeys.

Amy Berry is a nurse and lactation consultant for Mercy Health – Lorain.

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