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The Benefits of Breastfeeding by Norma Martin

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Choosing to breastfeed your child is one of the most important choices a mother will ever make.  It was the most important choice I ever made as a mother.  Offering human milk (my milk) to my child was the best gift I can ever give.  With that said, I chose this topic because I feel it is important for mothers to make an informed decision when choosing how to feed their children.  I am mother who attempted to breastfeed her first child but quickly gave up and formula feed, which I deeply regret.  My second child, I also chose to breastfeed and successfully did for over two years.  I was not going to allow myself to fail or give up; thankfully I found support and accomplished my goal.  I deeply regret giving up with my first son, he would have greatly benefited from breastfeeding benefits.  He was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis a few years ago, and suffered a rare complication from it called Macrophage Activation Syndrome.  The numerous health benefits breastfeeding offers are too important to ignore, like reducing the risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Breast milk contains benefits that will never be obtained from formula feeding.   By educating yourselves on breastfeeding, the misconceptions and lack of information will no longer have us feeling uncertain about this feeding option.

Breast milk supports optimal health in infants including reducing the risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis, Diabetes, and certain cancers (Riordan & Wamback).  Colostrum the earliest form of milk provides antibodies and immunities needed to fight diseases (Riordan & Wamback).  It is said offering Colostrum to babies is like giving them their first immunizations.  The antibodies also help protect against colds, flu, ear infections, asthma, and eczema (Mohrbacher & Stock).  Plus, breast milk helps the digestive system because it is easily digested preventing allergies and digestive issues such as constipation or diarrhea Riordan & Wambach). Also, breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS (crib deaths) and respiratory infections (Santrock).  The skin-to-skin contact increases bonding between mother and child (Santrock).  It has been proven that breastfed babies test higher on IQ tests due to special nutrients that help develop the brain (Riordan & Wambach).  The mother too has advantages when nursing.  Breastfeeding helps return to pre-pregnancy weight sooner.  It contracts the uterus, which can reduce postpartum complications by reducing heavy bleeding (Santrock).  Breastfeeding can help reduce the risk of ovarian and breast cancer (Riordan & Wambach).  The cost of nursing is free, while formula feeding is very expensive.

Even with all these benefits, breastfeeding is still not always the first choice.  Mothers or mothers-to-be will take time and energy to choose a safe car seat, stroller, crib, bathtub, and toy.  They even take time to match the diaper bag with the bedroom décor.  But these very same mothers often are not fully informed about the benefits of breastfeeding.  Some mothers feel that formula is as good as breast milk.  Not knowing formula comes from either cow milk or soy products.  Breast milk is always changing to meet the needs of the child while formula stays the same (Riordan & Wambach).  It is estimated that more than 95% of women can breastfeed their infants, but many choose not to (Riordan & Wambach).  There are reasons a woman should not breastfeed her infant as well.  For instance, if a woman is taking illegal drugs, which can enter the milk, then breastfeeding is not recommended (Santrock).  Also, some medical conditions may make breastfeeding not safe.  Such as AIDS, unstable diabetes, and blood infections (Riordan & Wambach).  When in doubt a doctor or lactation specialist should be contacted.

In short, breastfeeding is something that needs to be considered.  Educating yourself and making a well-informed decision should be first priority.   I could have reduced the risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis and its complications for my first son if I had breastfed.  Making a conscious effort to learn about our options before making the decision is all that is needed.


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Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk. (n.d.). Pediatrics. Retrieved from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/129/3/e827.full.html

Mohrbacher, I., & Stock, M. (2003). La leche league international the breastfeeding answer book. (Third revised edition ed.). Schaumburg,IL: La Leche League International.

Riordan, J., & Wambach, K. (2010). Breastfeeding and human lactation. Sudbury,

Massachusettes: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Santrock, J. (2011). Child development. (13th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Breastfeeding Found to Reduce Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis: http://uslca.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/USLCA-RA-and-BF-Press-Release-1.10.14.pdf


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