This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.
One of the most effective preventive measures a mother can take to protect the health of her infant is to breastfeed. Breastfeeding has been shown to help boost an infant’s immune system and reduce risk of health problems, including allergies, certain infections and diabetes. Many mothers also report breastfeeding helps them to develop a stronger bond with their baby, and studies show breastfeeding benefits the mother by helping her to lose pregnancy weight, producing hormones that help her to feel more relaxed, and reduces the risk of breast cancer. Finally, there are financial incentives to breastfeed — consider breastfeeding saves more than $700 compared to the cost of formula for the first year of an infant’s life.
Leading health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization, recommend breastfeeding for the first 12 months, but often, mothers can have difficulty achieving this. Although most mothers in the United States hope to breastfeed, and 75 percent of babies start out being breastfed, only 15 percent are exclusively breastfed six months later. There can be many reasons for this, but one of the most common is a mother returns to work, and doesn’t have the opportunity to continue breastfeeding. There are many steps employers can take to help women continue to breastfeed, like providing a space for mothers to express milk, allowing flexibility in a mother’s schedule, and allowing mothers to bring their babies to work or providing onsite childcare. For many businesses, allowing mothers to continue breastfeeding after returning to work actually makes good financial sense, as well. Breastfed babies are sick less often, resulting in less time off for the mother to care for a sick child in the long run.
With support, the success rate among mothers who want to breastfeed can be greatly improved and more babies can receive the important nutritional and health benefits of breastfeeding. Families, friends, communities, clinicians, health care leaders, employers and policymakers can all play a role in helping a mother make the decision to breastfeed, and to help her stick with her choice. Breastfeeding can be challenging, but with help and support, babies and moms can have a healthy start.
Carson City Health and Human Services has WIC counselors in both our Douglas County and Carson City Offices where new and expectant mothers can go for breastfeeding support and advice. For other Health Department services, go to our website at www.gethealthycarsoncity.org or visit us at www.facebook.com/cchhs.