Deciding whether or not to breastfeed is highly personal choice that depends on many social, cultural, personal, and environmental factors. That said, breastfeeding is one of the most effective things a mother can do to protect the health of her baby and herself. Given that it’s national breastfeeding month, we wanted to present you with 12 important facts about breastfeeding.
- To help your baby achieve optimal development, growth, and health in the months after birth, both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend that infants be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their lives.
- Breast milk contains many important nutrients that are crucial to helping an infant grow and fight illness. Breast milk also protects the infant against type 1 and type 2 diabetes, as well as being overweight or obese during childhood. Additionally, the skin-to-skin contact helps you and your infant bond.
- Breastfeeding carries many health benefits for the mother, including reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer, quicker loss of pregnancy weight, and a possible reduction in uterine bleeding following birth.
- Problems with breastfeeding are not uncommon. A few signs of potential issues include: breastfeeding sessions that are shorter than 10 minutes or longer than 50 minutes, severe pain that interferes with breastfeeding, the infant appearing hungry after a majority of feedings, and the infant being under their birth weight by two weeks of age. It’s important to consult with your physician if you experience these or any other problems related to breastfeeding.
- Breastfeeding rates vary geographically. Infants in urban areas, for example, are more likely to be breastfed than those living in rural areas. And infants who live in the southeast are less likely to be breastfed at six months of age compared to infants who live in other parts of the United States.
- Mothers older than 30 are more likely to breastfeed than mothers between the ages of 20 and 29. One study found that younger women were just as likely to start breastfeeding as older women, but were twice as likely to no longer breastfeed by the time the infant reached six months of age.
- Somewhere around 84 percent of new mothers start out breastfeeding, but by the time their infant is six months old, the number of mothers exclusively breastfeeding drops to 25%, despite various recommendations from top health organizations to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months of an infant’s life. Likewise, statistics from the Office of the Surgeon General show that more than 66 percent of breastfeeding mothers begin to use formula by the time their infant is three months old.
- Women stop breastfeeding for a number of reasons. Some of the most common include: concerns about the baby’s weight and/or nutrition, problems with latching and lactation, embarrassment and cultural constraints, lack of family support, unsupportive workplace policies, lack of parental leave after the baby is born, unsupportive hospital policies and practices, lack of education, and concerns about taking medication while breastfeeding.
- Non-Hispanic black infants are less likely to be breastfed than Hispanic infants and non-Hispanic white infants, according to the CDC. Statistics show that 58 percent of African-American babies breastfeed upon birth, but only 28 percent breastfeed at all at six months, and only eight percent exclusively breastfeed at six months.
- 68 percent of respondents in a survey of public opinions toward breastfeeding said they believe women should have the right to breastfeed in public spaces, and 66 percent believe that public buildings should have a room where women can breastfeed and pump milk.
- Breast milk stays fresh for up to four days in the refrigerator, and for up to four hours at room temperature (following pumping).
- Breast milk may be easier for your infant to digest than formula (which is commonly made from cow’s milk). This is particularly true for babies who are born prematurely,
If you would like to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, consider contacting Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com. We have offices in Phoenix, Ahwatukee, Casa Grande, Goodyear, Scottsdale, Gilbert, and Chandler.