Thursday, January 14, 2010

And More Benefits of Breast-feeding

This is our third and last column on breast-feeding. The first two columns focused on the benefits to the infant. This column will focus on benefits to the mother and on her nutrition.

Breast-feeding is a natural contraceptive in the first few months. If you prefer not to have babies ten months apart, breast-feeding will help. As babies begin to take other food for nutrition, the contraceptive effect diminishes.

Women who breast-feed may have lower rates of certain breast and ovarian cancers and a reduced risk for type 2 diabetes (US Department of Health and Human Services). Women who have breast-fed are at lower risk than mothers who have not for developing high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease decades later, when they are in menopause. The benefits increase with duration of past breast-feeding, the study found. Women who had breast-fed for more than a year in their entire lifetimes were almost 10 percent less likely than those who had never breast-fed to have a heart attack or a stroke in their postmenopausal years. They were also less likely to have diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol.

Research suggests coffee, tea, and soft drinks with caffeine should be limited. Caffeine does pass through the milk and makes some babies restless and fussy. Try decaffeinated coffee and tea and caffeine-free soft drinks or better yet, for your own health and the baby’s health, drink more water.

Alcohol is a drug and it does pass through the milk to your baby. Nursing babies whose mothers are heavy drinkers sometimes don't gain enough weight and their central nervous systems are affected. It also affects your "letdown." If you do want to drink occasionally, make sure you do it right after you nurse. Drinking after nursing means the alcohol level in your milk will be low (or gone) by the next feeding.

Please don’t smoke! Secondhand smoke is very, very dangerous for your baby and it is not good for you either.

Something that I hope young mothers will take away from this series on breast-feeding is that it is all a matter of common sense. The simplicity of breast-feeding is well understood: 1) no worry of contaminated bottles, 2) no worry of formula that has gone bad, 3) no worry of BPA in the liners of the cans or bottles, 4) no worry of chemicals in the formula that some day may be found to cause disease and 5) you will not be contributing to pollution by throwing the packaging into landfills. It is a sustainable, inexpensive way to give your baby the absolute, very best start in life that you can.

Toad House Publishing

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