HCA Midwest Health - October 10, 2017

Breastfeeding is not just a bonding experience between mother and child. It also has lifelong benefits for both of you, from increased IQ for baby to decreased risk of diseases for mom.

News reports pop up frequently about cultural expectations coming into conflict with moms and nursing infants. For example, a Virginia woman who was discreetly breastfeeding in a store and was not noticed by anyone – but was spotted by a security camera – was later tracked down by local authorities and arrested at her home. As another example, a Santa Cruz mom was breastfeeding her baby in her car at a gas station. When police pulled her from her car and had to remove her newborn from her, she was charged with resisting arrest.

Although 49 states, Washington DC and the Virgin Islands have laws allowing women to breastfeed in any location – public or otherwise – that doesn't keep moms from coming under fire for doing what's healthy and natural. So it's no surprise that while 77 percent of North American moms start off nursing their newborns, by the time their child is six months old only 49 percent continue to do so.

Forgive the choice of words, but this statistic is a crying shame. The benefits of breastfeeding for baby and mom are tremendous. For starters, breastfeeding helps a child develop a stronger immune system and bigger brain, dodge allergies and lowers the odds of childhood obesity. The list of healthy rewards baby gets from this bonding and feeding ritual goes on and on.

Similarly, moms who breastfeed their babies for a longer time gained major benefits like decreased risk for type two diabetes, hypertension, high blood sugar and being overweight or obese. Researchers analyzing data from the 20-year-long Nurses Health Study found that women who breastfed for less than six months had an increased risk of hardening of the arteries.

Ultimately, the healthcare benefits to mom and baby, and, if you want to look at it from another angle, the savings to our healthcare system are significant. So encourage acceptance and understanding of moms who need and want to breastfeed their babies.

Breastfeeding isn't just about feeding a hungry baby, it's also about giving baby AND mom lifelong health benefits they can't get anywhere else.