WARMRegards July 2019 – Educating Moms About Breastfeeding: Part 2
Welcome to WARMRegards! We’ve recently restarted our popular e-newsletter aimed at helping WIC agencies discover the latest developments in technology, applications, and tips-of-the-trade. It’s our goal to support you in reaching and retaining more WIC clients.
Last month, in Part 1 of our two-part series, we discussed how breastfeeding is affected by a mother’s diet. Part 2 focuses on the long-term benefits of breastfeeding, as well as what you can do to increase breastfeeding rates in your clients.
Most moms have likely heard “breast is best” or some other slogan that encourages breastfeeding, and they probably have some vague idea that breastfeeding is healthier, but they may not be aware of the many benefits breastfeeding has on both mom and baby. For starters, breastfeeding carries antibodies that help babies fight infections. Healthline points to numerous studies that tell us that babies who aren’t breastfed are more prone to pneumonia, diarrhea, and other infections. But those immediate effects of breastfeeding are only the beginning.
Breastfeeding and Disease Risk
Along with protecting babies from infections, breastfeeding is shown to reduce a child’s risk of developing certain diseases later in life. Healthline lays out the affect breastfeeding has on several conditions.
Exclusive breastfeeding can:
- Reduce middle ear infections by 50%.
- Reduce hospitalization due to respiratory tract infections by up to 72%.
- Lower a child’s risk of serious colds and ear/throat infections by up to 63%.
- Lower the incidence of gut infections by 64%, even for several months after breastfeeding.
- Prevent intestinal tissue damage.
- Reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) by 50%.
- Reduce the risk of asthma, atopic dermatitis, and eczema by 27-42%.
- Lower the chance of developing celiac disease by 52% when breastfed at the time of first gluten exposure.
- Prevent inflammatory bowel disease.
- Lower the risk of diabetes type 1 and 2.
- Reduce the risk of childhood leukemia by 15-20%.
The Link Between Breastfeeding and Obesity
According to an analysis published by BMC Public Health, breastfeeding is a significant factor in reducing childhood obesity. The analysis looked at 25 studies from 1997 to 2014, comprising over 225,000 participants, and found that children breastfed for more than 7 months were significantly less likely to be obese. Even those breastfed for less than 3 months had a 10% lower chance of obesity.
The results translate not only to obesity in infanthood, but also to childhood obesity. The breastfed children were 22% less likely to become obese as they got older. The reason for this is simple, as a 2013 TIME article points out. Breast milk has the perfect balance of proteins and nutrients that babies need as they start to develop. It’s easy for babies to digest, and they can stop when they’re full. A common problem with bottle-fed babies is that often, moms will continue feeding until the bottle is empty. Sometimes, that’s too much for baby and can lead to weight and health issues.
Breastfeeding Benefits for Mom
It’s not just baby who reaps the health benefits of breastfeeding. Moms tend to gain quite a bit of abdominal weight throughout their pregnancy, which is important to nourish their baby in gestation. But once baby is born, that extra weight can be detrimental to mom’s health. Breastfeeding is shown to help moms lose that extra abdominal weight and more easily return to (or close to) their pre-pregnancy weight.
HealthyChildren.org lays out some other benefits moms see when they breastfeed:
- Breastfeeding releases the hormones prolactin and oxytocin, keeping moms calm and relaxed, promoting their bond with baby, and helping them recover more quickly from childbirth.
- Moms who breastfeed tend to be at a lower risk for breast and ovarian cancers later in life.
- Breastfeeding can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases like high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
- Breast milk is cheaper than formula, so low-income moms will especially benefit from breastfeeding their babies. Breastfeeding moms only need to eat 400-500 calories more per day, which typically ends up costing less than pricey formulas.
Educating Moms Pre- and Post-Natal
The CDC suggests beginning breastfeeding education before baby is born, as you can begin to prepare mom for what is to come. In a 2008 study, a multicomponent approach consisting of prenatal and postnatal education positively impacted breastfeeding exclusivity and duration.
Prenatal education should get soon-to-be moms thinking about their child’s health and guiding them toward breastfeeding. You’ll want to include information about effective breastfeeding, benefits for mom and baby, positioning, resources for any issues that could arise, and common myths and concerns. You can easily provide this information to prenatal moms through a series of videos that relate to each issue, which they can watch at their leisure. For a more personalized approach, consider setting up a text reminder program that allows moms to receive texts specific to their stage of pregnancy.
Immediate postpartum education should cover topics like stabilizing baby, making sure mom is comfortable, referrals for support, and signs of success or problems in the first few days after baby is born. During this time, moms may be too busy, stressed, or tired to even sift through a video series, so a text message intervention might be best. These texts can give them specific information they need in those crucial first few days, when they might be at risk of giving up.
We know that breastfeeding is what’s best for both mom and baby, and studies have shown that early intervention and ongoing support increase the likelihood and duration of breastfeeding. It’s imperative to reach out to your clients often and keep them educated about this important issue.
By Shela Ward
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