More Mothers Realizing the Benefits of Breastfeeding
In the United States, an increasing number of mothers are becoming aware of the many health benefits of breastfeeding. According to Wisconsin statistics provided by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2007:
- 72.1 percent of infants were breastfed at some time.
- 39.6 percent were breastfed at age 6 months.
- 19 percent were breastfed at age 1 year.
The surgeon general has set the following goals for 2010:
- 75 percent of infants will be breastfed upon discharge from the hospital.
- 50 percent will breastfeed at age 6 months.
- 25 percent will breastfeed at 1 year of age.
Research shows that babies benefit from breastfeeding in many ways, including:
- Nutrition: Human milk is designed by nature to contain the perfect balance of nutrients in a form that is easiest for a baby to digest. These nutrients promote healthy development of the brain, nervous system and eyes. Some of these nutrients are not available in commercial baby formulas. Furthermore, breast milk will change over time to keep pace with an infant's growth and changing nutritional needs. Research shows that breastfed babies perform better on intelligence tests later in life, and develop better eye function.
- Immunities: Breast milk contains antibodies that the mother's body has developed to fight illness and infection. These antibodies are transferred to the breastfed infant through the milk, boosting his or her immune system. Research shows that breastfed babies have significantly lower incidences of ear infections, respiratory illness, meningitis, childhood lymphoma, and Crohn's disease and other gastrointestinal problems.
- Decreased health risks: Research shows that breastfed babies have less risk of obesity and heart disease later in life.
- Emotional development: Breastfeeding promotes development of a healthy emotional bond between mother and baby.
- Bio-availability: This term refers to how efficiently the human body can use the nutrients in a food. Breast milk has high bio-availability, meaning an infant benefits more from a nutrient contained in breast milk than the same nutrient obtained through other foods.
- Suitability: This term refers to how much energy the human body must expend to digest a food. Breast milk is easier for an infant to digest than other foods. This high suitability is believed to be one reason breastfed babies develop fewer allergy-related skin conditions and asthma.
Mothers also realize health benefits from breastfeeding, including:
- Increased bone density.
- Reduced risk of postpartum bleeding.
- Reduced risk of ovarian and breast cancers.
- Reduced risk of heart disease later in life.
- Increased brain and nervous system development.
Not only is breastfeeding a healthier option, but it's also less expensive than bottle-feeding.