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Breastfeeding about more than just food

By Kayla Sellers

Breastfeeding Peer Counselor, Clark County Health Department

This week is World Breastfeeding Week, which is celebrated the first seven days of August to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world.

“Breast is best” is a phrase used everywhere to promote breastfeeding. Though true, breastfeeding is best for a multitude of reasons and it is not just as simple as saying “breast is best.”

The benefits of breastfeeding seem to be endless as scientists are continuously discovering more.

Although breast milk has incredible nutritious properties, it doesn’t stop there. Breastfeeding is way more than just food. Breastfeeding provides babies with disease protection, makes them feel secure, and also has fantastic benefits for the mother.

In the first days of breastfeeding, moms have colostrum, which is often called “baby’s first vaccine.” This is because colostrum is so rich in antibodies, it helps protect babies from diseases during infancy and into adulthood.

The protection doesn’t stop there. As babies continue to breastfeed, and mom’s milk turns from colostrum to mature milk, babies are still provided with antibodies through mom’s milk.

The best part is breast milk is a living substance and it changes daily. When a baby nurses, their saliva communicates with the mother’s body and tells her body what germs the baby has been exposed to. Then, the mother’s milk will make antibodies to help protect her baby from those germs.

A mother’s breast milk is tailor-fitted just for her baby and it changes as baby’s needs change.

Breastfeeding also helps babies feel secure. Babies are born into the world after living their entire existence in the womb. This opens up their senses to new smells, sounds, sights, etc. All of the stimuli they experience can overwhelm a baby and being at the mother’s breast is comforting to them.

This benefits both the baby and the mother. For the mother, it is a simple means of calming her baby, as well as a great way for bonding.

For the baby, the security they feel is great for their emotional and mental development. When a baby feels their needs are met and feels secure, studies have shown it actually makes them more independent as they grow.

Mothers also benefit greatly from breastfeeding. This isn’t just because breastfeeding is free, simpler and convenient, but it also provides her with health benefits. Breastfeeding burns approximately 500 calories per day, so it helps moms return to their pre-pregnancy weight faster.

Breastfeeding also provides disease protection by reducing a woman’s risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Some studies even show it may help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The benefits of breastfeeding seem to be never-ending. It will provide both mom and baby with benefits that last a lifetime.

For many mothers, they have the desire to breastfeed, because they know how powerful breast milk is, but they can trouble finding proper support.

If you need breastfeeding support, the WIC program at the Clark County Health Department offers the breastfeeding peer counselor program to assist pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, including free monthly breastfeeding classes.

The next breastfeeding class will be at 11 a.m. Aug. 17 at the Clark County Health Department. Park in the lower lot.

Clark County Health Department supports families through a variety of programming and services including nutrition therapy, family planning, immunizations, WIC, HANDS, community education events, Cooper Clayton smoking cessation and more. For more information, call 744-4482 or visit our website at www.clarkhealthdept.org. You can also like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.