EFFINGHAM — HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital recognizes National Breastfeeding Month in August and the benefits of breastfeeding.
Breast milk provides the newborn with vital antibodies and a boost in immunity as the infant grows.
“Breastfeeding, whether at the breast or by expressing breastmilk, is important for an infant because it provides protection against many short- and long-term illnesses, while giving mother and baby time to important bond,” says Ashley Davis, RN, Lactation Certified. consultant (CLC) and pivot nurse.
• Breast milk fights disease. Cells, hormones and antibodies in breast milk protect babies against diseases such as ear infections, asthma, type 1 diabetes and gastrointestinal infections, among others.
• Breast milk is easier to digest. For most babies, especially premature babies, breast milk is easier to digest than formula. Formula protein is made from cow’s milk and it takes time for babies’ stomachs to get used to digesting it.
• Breast milk is liquid gold. Colostrum, often referred to as “liquid gold,” is the thick, yellow breast milk mothers make during pregnancy and right after birth. This milk is rich in nutrients and antibodies to protect baby. Although baby only gets a small amount of colostrum at each feed, this is about as much as his stomach can hold.
• Breast milk changes as baby grows. The colostrum turns into what is called mature milk. From the third to fifth day after birth, this mature breast milk contains just the right amount of fat, sugar, water and protein to help a baby continue to grow. It’s a thinner type of milk than colostrum, but it provides all the nutrients and antibodies a baby needs.
• Breastfeeding is also beneficial for mothers. Breastfeeding mothers tend to recover faster from childbirth and are at a lower risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about six months, then continued breastfeeding while introducing soft foods until 24 months of age.
For mothers who need extra support on their breastfeeding journey, HSHS St. Anthony’s offers evening breastfeeding classes once a month. To check upcoming dates and register for the course, visit stanthonyshospital.org/events.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers additional information on the benefits of breastfeeding at cdc.gov/breastfeeding.
For mothers who cannot or have chosen not to breastfeed, the CDC recommends giving infant formula specially made for babies and fortified with iron, which means vitamins and minerals are added. The CDC does not recommend using homemade infant formula; a baby’s nutritional needs are very specific and may not be met with the use of a homemade formula recipe.
As always, if you have any concerns or questions about breastfeeding or formula feeding, speak to your doctor.
For more information about HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital, visit St. Anthony’s website at stanthonyshospital.org.