As community professionals working with pre- and postnatal mothers, it is important for you to understand the impact of breastfeeding on the mother/baby dyad, and on the health and well-being of the communities you serve. The Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) is a leader in supporting and promoting breastfeeding across the state, and wants to ensure that you have the most up-to-date education, resources, research and event information available. Below you will find information about breastfeeding for your use in better supporting the health of Hoosier mothers and babies.
While many community professionals recognize the general benefits of breastfeeding for mothers and babies, it is important to realize that breastfeeding impacts public health in a significant way. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) specifically recommends that promotion and support for breastfeeding be provided when health professionals interact with women during prenatal and postpartum care. Education and counseling on breastfeeding are solidly recognized by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in their Guidelines for Perinatal Care as a necessary part of prenatal and pediatric care. Likewise, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American College of Nurse-Midwives call for the consistent delivery of breastfeeding education and counseling services.1
As a community professional, the U.S. Surgeon General recommends you take action to:
- Help pregnant women learn about the importance of breastfeeding for their babies and for themselves;
- Teach mothers to breastfeed;
- Encourage mothers to talk to their maternity care providers about plans to breastfeed;
- Support mothers to have time and flexibility to breastfeed; and
- Encourage mothers to ask for help with breastfeeding when needed.
Incorporating discussions and support of breastfeeding into your everyday interactions with pre- and postnatal mothers can make a significant impact on the success of that mother and her breastfeeding goals. For more information, view the U.S. Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding.
The impact of breastfeeding on mothers and infants is great, but a few key benefits include:
- It protects infants from ear infections, diarrhea and constipation, pneumonia, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), obesity, diabetes, asthma and allergies, childhood leukemia and eczema.
- It contains antibodies, hormones, anti-viruses, anti-allergens, anti-parasites, growth factors and enzymes that are not in formula.2
- Breastmilk is a dynamic feeding source. Its content changes as the infant grows and his or her nutritional needs change.
- It is always available for the infant and does not require money, a car, bottles, clean water, warming or sterilization.
- There is a positive correlation between breastfeeding and better cognitive development through school-age for children. 3
- Breastfeeding mothers have a lower risk of postpartum depression, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
- Physical contact is critical to the health and well-being of a newborn baby. Breastfeeding allows mom and baby to be “skin-to-skin” and helps the new baby feel secure, warm and comforted.
- The physical closeness of breastfeeding boosts oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is the hormone that helps breastmilk flow and it helps the new mother relax and feel calm.
- Breastfeeding can contribute to helping new mothers return to a healthy weight postpartum.
- Families that choose breastfeeding typically save hundreds of dollars per year that might otherwise be spent on formula and supplies. It also saves our economy money because babies stay healthier and parents take fewer sick days at work and submit fewer health insurance claims. 4
When you are working with a mother who is considering nursing, or is in need of additional support while nursing, it is critical that you know where to find help. Lactation specialists play a very important role in supporting new mothers and can be a great resource for you as well.
- American Academy of Family Physicians
- Breastfeeding USA
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - Breastfeeding
- International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBLCE)
- International Lactation Consultant Association
- La Leche League International
- National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition
- United States Breastfeeding Committee
- Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health - Breastfeeding
- World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action