|Breastfeeding is Revolutionary!|
Recently I heard from a mother here in Kuwait that breastfeeding (instead of formula) was over-emphasized at the hospital and she didn’t understand why they made such a big deal about it. While mothers are certainly entitled to have their own opinions about breastfeeding and to make their own choices, there is clear and definitive evidence that human milk is superior to formula in a variety of ways. As the popular saying goes,”you’re entitled to your own opinions, but not to your own facts.”
As public health educators and advocates, we have a responsibility to disseminate and promote the facts about breastfeeding and then let individuals make their own decisions based on their own circumstances. Of course we all wish it were just that easy. Many women don't have the choice and are limited by personal, social, economic, and political circumstances that might not be of their own making, and we sympathize with the difficult decisions those mothers need to make. But that doesn't mean public health advocates stop promoting what clearly provides the best health outcomes. Breastfeeding.
For some background, nutritionists and scientists have spent decades trying to isolate and recreate the components of human milk, only to confirm time and again that no milk substitute comes even close to producing the same results as human milk, no substitute can change to meet the exact needs of a particular infant, and no substitute contains the same nutrients, trace elements, and synergistic components found in human milk.“The entire history of baby formula has been the history of one overlooked nutrient after another: [Justus von] Liebig (the great German scientist and nutritionist credited with pioneering infant formula) missed the vitamins and amino acids, and his successors missed the omega-3s, and still to this day babies fed on the most ’nutritionally complete’ formula fail to do as well as babies fed human milk. Even more than margarine, infant formula stands as the ultimate test product of nutritionism and a fair index of its hubris.” [Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eaters Manifesto, p31-32.] Indeed.
So to anyone out there who is still unclear about why we are making such a big deal about breastfeeding, why this is a public health concern of most paramount importance, and what the facts are—let me provide you with the facts regarding the benefits of breastfeeding.
For the mother, breastfeeding:
· Reduces the Risk of Breast Cancer
· Reduces the Risk of Ovarian and Uterine Cancer
· Lessens Osteoporosis
· Benefits Child Spacing
· Promotes Emotional Health ~ Less postpartum depression
· Promotes Postpartum Weight Loss
· Saves Mother Money
Nursing mothers also benefit from their bodies increased production of oxcytocin as a result of nursing, producing increased feelings of well-being, happiness and love, and helping them to fall back to sleep more easily after night time feedings.
When babies are born, they are completely sterile. They rely 100% on their mother’s milk to culture and establish their brand new digestive system, provide them with the immunities to protect them from germs and diseases, and supply them with the necessary nutrition to help them grow and develop optimally. A mother’s body creates the perfect environment and nourishment for a growing fetus and a growing baby.
For the Baby, breastfeeding provides short term and long term benefits for their whole body:
· Brain ~ Higher IQ- breastmilk support the growth of nerve tissue.
· Eyes ~ Visual acuity better in breastfed babies.
· Ears ~ Fewer ear infections.
· Mouth ~ Less need for orthodontics, better facial muscle development, wider food palate as adults.
· Throat ~ Less likely to need tonsillectomies.
· Respiratory System ~ Fewer and less severe respiratory infections, pneumonia, and influenza
· Heart and Circulatory System ~ Lower heart rates as children, lower cholesterol as adults.
· Digestive System ~ Less diarrhea, lower risk for allergies, Crohns disease, and ulceritive colitis as adults.
· Immune System ~ Stronger immune system, respond better to vaccinations, decreases risk of childhood cancer.
· Endocrine System ~ Less risk of getting diabetes.
· Kidneys ~ Breast milk easier for Kidney's to process.
· Urinary Tract ~ Fewer infections in breastfed infants.
· Joints and muscles~ Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis less common in children who were breastfed.
· Skin ~ Less Eczema, healthier looking and better smelling skin.
· Growth ~ Breastfed babies leaner at one year, and less likely to be obese later in life.
· Bowels ~ Less constipation, stools have less offensive odor.
In addition, breastfeeding provides a family with:
- Financial Savings
- Increased flexibility with night feedings
- Increased flexibility with feedings while traveling
Employers and public health providers also benefit from breastfeeding:
- Breastfed babies are healthier, as a result their mothers miss fewer days of work.
- Healthier mothers and babies relieve the public health system of significant disease burdens that increase for mothers and babies who do not breastfeed.
- Without excess processing, packaging, storing or delivering costs and resources- breastfeeding contributes to the health of our planet. For instance, if 80,000 mothers breastfed their babies, they would save 17,200 tons of tins from being packaged, transported, and eventually added to our landfills.
The burden to the health system and to personal lives of not breastfeeding is significant. Kuwait struggles with high rates of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, to name just a few, while the exclusive breastfeeding rate for babies at three months is only 12%. So clearly, we are not making as big of a deal about it as we should.Join BirthKuwait in the Food Revolution, by choosing to promote and support whole, organic, nutritious foods right from the beginning of a baby’s life: Breastfeed for a healthier baby, mother, community, and planet!
Food Revolution Kuwait ~ Saturday May 19th from 10am-5pm at the Women's Culture and Social Society. Meet local farmers and chefs, taste free organic nibbles...find out how to get the best food for you and your family!
By, Sarah Paksima Co-Founder BirthKuwait, Doula, Childbirth Educator and Prenatal Yoga Teacher