August 1st marked the start of World Breastfeeding Week! When we think breastfeeding, we think breast pumps, sterilization bags, nipple shields and a serious hardcore commitment. The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) luckily sees the bigger picture! Every year, their goal is to highlight the benefits of breastfeeding for both newborns and their mothers.
The theme for 2017 is “Sustaining Breastfeeding Together!” With this theme, WABA aims to emphasize that successful breastfeeding of infants across the globe is a team effort involving friends, families, and healthcare providers offering support to new mothers.
Aside from being an opportunity to bond with your baby, your breast milk supplies vital nutrients to nourish your baby and contains antibodies that your body has produced from fighting infections. These antibodies are passed on to your baby through your breast milk. By sharing immunity proteins, breastfeeding reduces your baby’s risk of developing many ailments including ear and respiratory infections, and diarrhea. This is essential for the health of your baby as a newborn’s immune system is still developing.
There are significant benefits of breastfeeding for a mother’s health as well! Studies have found that breastfeeding is linked to lower risks of breast and ovarian cancer in women. Breastfeeding can impact emotional health as well as physical health. Taking the time to breastfeed allows for close contact between you and your baby. This closeness is comforting for your baby, regulating heart and breathing rate, and can be calming for you as well.
Several health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend exclusive breastfeeding for an infant’s first six months because of the health benefits that breastfeeding poses for both you and your baby.
Ultimately, you have to decide if breastfeeding is right for you and your baby. To learn more about the short and long term health benefits of breastfeeding from La Leche League International. Visit WorldBreastfeedingWeek.org to read about WABA’s objectives for World Breastfeeding Week, for breastfeeding tips, visit WomensHealth.gov.