Breastfeeding Awareness Month:
Authored by Helen Araya, Dietician, Program Director, Women, Infants & Children (WIC), funded by the USDA – Food & Nutrition Services
August is known as the month where everyone attempts to squeeze in the last bit of summer activities, but is also recognized as National Breastfeeding Month and as a time to exam the benefits of mothers providing milk for their newborns. In recent years it has been increasingly popular to provide an infant with formula as opposed to breast milk and each parent has the right to feed their child as they see fit. While formula is safe, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding the first 6 months of life and then mixing in complementary foods until an infant reaches 12 months old. This recommendation is due to the large amount of benefits of breastfeeding for both the child and the mother.
Key Benefits of Breastfeeding
- Breastmilk changes to meet a baby’s nutritional needs. As an infant grows, they require different types of nutrition and a mother’s milk is in sync with their evolving needs.
- Breastfeeding can help protect against short-term and chronic diseases. There is a direct correlation between babies that have been breastfed being at lower risk of having asthma, obesity, type 1 diabetes and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
- Mothers can transmit antibodies to their children by breastfeeding. While an infant is developing their immune system a mother can assist them by breastfeeding as antibodies that a mother has developed to fight off certain diseases can be passed to their baby this way.
- Breastfeeding is more convenient than constantly having to prepare and carry around formula. It goes without saying that it is easy to feed an infant when the only things required are the mother and their child.
- Breastfeeding also protects the mother from health risks as well as the child. Mothers who breastfeed reduce their risk of breast and ovarian cancer in addition to type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure.
The bond between a mother and their child is unlike any other relationship in terms of the level of intimacy they share, but in their first few months together they can provide each other with incredible health benefits. At Whittier Street Health Center’s WIC program, we make sure that mothers who breastfeed have the appropriate nutrition by assigning them food prescriptions based on their breastfeeding status. Mothers who are ‘Exclusively Breastfeeding’ are prescribed foods that include milk, eggs and cheese to make sure that their milk is as nutritious as it can be for the child.
The WIC Program is dedicated to promoting optimal nutrition practices among its participants. Breastfeeding is known to provide the infant and mother with numerous physiological, nutritional, and psychological benefits. For more information, please contact the Whittier Street Health Center WIC Program at 617-989-3228.