The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently updated their breastfeeding guidelines, now supporting the continuation of breastfeeding up to two years or beyond, as mutually desired by mother and child. Breast milk is and always has been the most optimal source of nutrition for a growing baby, and while breastfeeding is an option for the mother, it is the most recommended practice for giving babies the nutrients they need. they need.
August is National Breastfeeding Month, a time to raise awareness about the importance of breastfeeding. As the United States continues to face a shortage of infant formula and with updated AAP guidelines, it is now of the utmost importance that mothers are informed of the many benefits of breastfeeding for their babies and for themselves.
The importance of breastfeeding
The World Health Organization (WHO) actively promotes breastfeeding as the best source of nutrition for infants and young children. Breast milk is specifically formulated for optimal nutrition of the newborn. The composition of breast milk changes to match a baby’s needs as he grows and his nutritional needs change. Babies also receive immune support from the antibodies provided in breast milk, as breast milk provides immunity in the early stages of life before a baby can receive vaccines. In fact, studies have found that the breast milk of mothers vaccinated against COVID-19 carries antibodies against the virus.
In addition to its many health benefits, breast milk is economically advantageous. Due to an infant’s changing routine, many find breastfeeding to be the most convenient feeding option due to the ability to breastfeed anytime, anywhere. Breastfeeding can help ease the financial burden associated with feeding because it provides a free source of nutritious food for babies.
In addition, breastfeeding creates a special bond between mother and baby because it promotes skin-to-skin contact. Many experts say that the bonding experience in the first years of life helps alleviate social and behavioral problems in children and adults. Breastfeeding even burns extra calories and helps many mothers regain their pre-pregnancy weight. If a new mother has questions about breastfeeding, she can turn to health plans for answers, such as Care Source. CareSource provides essential information and resources to help mothers and families, pays lactation consultants who can provide members with prenatal education and postnatal breastfeeding assistance, and provides all mothers with a breast pump and stationery.
Disparities in breastfeeding
Although the AAP recommends breastfeeding, national rates remain low, especially among minority groups. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that racial and ethnic disparities in breastfeeding initiation persist. Low breastfeeding rates add more than $3 billion a year to medical costs for mothers and their children in the United States, according to the CDC. In addition, three quarters (76%) of black infants are breastfed, which is below the national average of 84%. Indiana is one of 26 states with the lowest rate of breastfeeding initiation among infants of black mothers. It is important to consider the root causes of disparities in breastfeeding, including historical trauma, access to care, provider bias, and manufacturer promotion of infant formula. Culturally appropriate education, increased breastfeeding support, and diverse representation within health care should be encouraged and implemented to increase awareness of the importance of breastfeeding and help remove these barriers.
CareSource encourages mothers and mothers-to-be to learn more about the benefits of breastfeeding, especially as we continue to see a shortage of infant formula. Health plans like CareSource can provide access to case managers who connect mothers to resources in their community. Additionally, mothers can use CareSource24, a 24-hour helpline to ask questions and get advice. CareSource also recently partnered with The Milk Bank, sponsoring 1,000 ounces of human milk through their give an ounce country. The donation is part of a larger effort to increase access to adequate infant nutrition during the shortage of infant formula.
Breastfeeding is more than just a lifestyle decision; it is an investment in the health of mothers and their babies, reducing health risks such as asthma, obesity, diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), breast cancer, ovarian cancer and more, according to the CDC. It is essential to advance the support, protection and promotion of breastfeeding so that all families have the opportunity to breastfeed.