Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Every Ounce Counts!

Recently, I was asked to be the guest speaker for a breastfeeding reception at our local WIC clinic. August is always an exciting time to be in the business of breastfeeding because the first week is officially World Breastfeeding Week. Many cities and government agencies promote breastfeeding during this week and I am honored to be a part of the celebration in Granbury, TX.

As I was preparing, I researched the WIC theme, "Every Ounce Counts". What a great slogan! I encourage you to check out the WIC website because their campaign rivals those of major companies. Not only do they have great pictures of babies and what they might be when they grow up, but a song that can only be an encouragement to any nursing mother. The WIC ads include babies that want to grow up to be firefighters and doctors because breastmilk makes you stronger and smarter, which is very true! Breastfed babies develop better with fewer health problems and their IQ scores and performance in school is markedly better than their formula-fed counterparts. The next thing that came to my mind, was the composition of breast milk and how many moms are fooled into thinking that their milk isn't good enough or that the time they breastfeed isn't important. Collostrum comes in teaspoons, not ounces and yet it is the baby's first immunization against the world's diseases. Moms are also fooled into thinking that a bottle of formula occasionally doesn't affect anything, but supplementing even once per day before the age of 3-4 months, can cause early weaning. Babies who are breastfed just three months already have a reduced risk of juvenile diabetes, multiple sclerosis, heart disease and even childhood cancer!  The breast milk made the difference and the longer you nurse, the better. Babies who are breastfed for four months are less likely to be hospitalized for respiratory illness.

Those are some great benefits of breastmilk, but lets look at the flip-side. Diarrheal disease is four times more likely in formula-fed infants and formula-feeding increases risk of childhood obesity by 20-30%. Those are some statistics you can't argue with. And did you know that breastfed babies have fewer cavities than their artificially fed counterparts?

So many moms are discouraged from breastfeeding because they think their milk is not good enough or they
think that after a certain age, the benefits are gone. Nutritional content of breastmilk is consistent from mother
to mother even in third world countries. Between the ages of 12-24 months, toddlers can still get about 15 oz per day from nursing. These 15 oz provide the following RDA: 29% of energy, 43% protein, 36% calcium, 75% vitamin A, 76% folate, 94% vitamin B12, and 60% of Vit C. That is a lot more nutrition than they can get from chicken nuggets!

So moms, take heart. Every ounce does count and not just for your baby, but for you too. Not only does making breastmilk burn calories, but if you nurse for a total of 2 years, even if that is 3 babies for 8 months each, your reduce your risk of breast cancer, uterine cancer and ovarian cancer. Do remember, whether you nurse for 2 weeks or 2 years, any breast milk is good for your baby.

My Dad always had a saying, plan your work and work your plan. Most moms plan how to feed their baby, so there are a few things that are need to know. First, supplementing early causes early weaning. Moms who think they can nurse and feed formula early on, loose their milk supply. To keep up milk supply, partial weaning which is what we call it when moms choose to nurse at home, but not at work, can be accomplished only after your milk supply is well established. This happens when your baby is 4 months old. Full milk supply is best achieved when moms do not supplement solids until the baby is 6 months old and even then after the nursing, not before. Next, watch for growth spurts. Babies are supposed to act like they are hungry all the time at 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months and 6 months. This is normal, don't schedule them, just use it or loose it!

For more answers to breastfeeding questions, check out our Q & A:

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