Breastfeeding Provides Undeniable Health Benefits
Breastfeeding has long been known to provide significant health benefits to babies and mothers. However, many expectant moms or those who have recently given birth may wonder whether breastfeeding is as beneficial as it is said to be. In honor of World Breastfeeding Awareness Month and Black Breastfeeding Week (August 25-31), Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Carol Joy Williams-Cotton explains the benefits of breastfeeding for mothers and their children.
"Breastfeeding lowers the risk of sudden infant death syndrome and has been shown to lower the chances of your baby suffering from other health problems, including infections, obesity, and diabetes," Dr. Williams-Cotton said. "Breastfeeding is beneficial no matter how long you are able to do it. Whether you breastfeed for 3 months or 12 months, your baby will benefit from it."
Dr. Williams-Cotton also notes that mothers who breastfeed benefit when it comes to their own health. "Breastfeeding can help protect against certain serious health problems, such as breast and ovarian cancer. Additionally, because of the calorie expenditures, research has shown that breastfeeding can support postpartum weight loss. It’s a win-win for both mother and baby."
Nursing does not always come easy for every mother – many women find it painful, inconvenient, or even impossible for various reasons. Pumping and feeding expressed milk is an excellent alternative if you want breast milk to be part of your parenting plan.
Jamila Veasley, a mother and Kaiser Permanente member, shares her lactation journey.
"I had an amazing lactation consultant with my first child. She fully respected my decision to exclusively pump and helped me overcome terrible engorgement and mastitis multiple times. She also ensured I had a breast pump that worked for me. That alone was priceless as I wouldn't have been able to exclusively pump as long as I did."
For mothers who are hesitant about breastfeeding, Veasley provides the following advice.
"Usually, hesitancy stems from a fear or just not knowing, so I would say educate yourself, talk to other women you respect as mothers, and then just try it out. Don't make a decision before giving birth, as plans could change once your baby arrives. And give yourself grace. breastfeeding, be it nursing or pumping, might be a natural thing to do but both take a lot of hard work and commitment to succeed."
For more information and resources, visit kp.org.