New studies suggest breastfeeding can provide more than just nutritional benefits to your child, especially when continued for a prolonged period of time.
An Oxford University study published in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood found that babies who were breastfed for at least four months had fewer behavioral problems at age 5 than those who were not breastfed for at least four months. The nationwide study was based on data gathered from 9,500 mothers and infants, with follow-up interviews conducted once the children reached elementary age. Approximately 16.1 percent of formula-fed babies experienced problems such as anxiousness and restlessness, while only 6.5 percent of breastfed children showed the same symptoms.
Other benefits of breastfeeding include:
- Higher IQ
- Lower risk of being overweight
- Lower risk of infections
- Reduced risk of breast cancer for moms
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for the first year of life, exclusively for the first six months of a baby’s life. To ensure your child reaps the maximum benefits:
- Educate yourself. Take a prenatal breastfeeding class, purchase or borrow a breastfeeding resource book (Visit the Lending Library in the Center for Women’s Health at St.Vincent Women’s Hospital.), and talk to your employer about breastfeeding.
- Be prepared. Heading back to work? On the go? Pump bottles of breast milk beforehand to have available when you are away or to give someone else the opportunity to feed the baby. Invest in a breast pump to express milk. Talk to a lactation consultant about your breastfeeding needs and the feasibility of purchasing a breast pump.
- Eat well. When you breastfeed your infant, all the nutrition he or she receives comes from you. Just as you maintained a proper diet during pregnancy, try to fill your daily meals with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean proteins while breastfeeding. Also be sure to drink plenty of liquids, such as water, juice and milk. Limit beverages containing caffeine. Occasional small amounts of alcohol are compatible with breastfeeding; if you have more than 1 to 2 drinks, wait 4 to 8 hours before resuming breastfeeding and pump/dump milk during that time.
- Seek help. Breastfeeding is natural, but many mothers need additional help to learn how to latch and position the baby at the breast. If you have any questions or need to make an appointment, call a St.Vincent Health lactation consultant (Indianapolis: 317.415.7441 or Carmel: 317.582.7461) and plan to attend a breastfeeding support group, now at all three St.Vincent Health locations. For specific times and locations, visit us online at monogrammaternity.com. A little help can make a big difference.
- Stop smoking. Nicotine and other chemicals present in cigarettes and tobacco products can be passed on to your child through breastfeeding. If you currently smoke, talk with your physician about what quitting options may work best for your lifestyle. Not only does smoking put your baby’s health at risk, it can lead to lung cancer and heart disease for you.
If you would like to learn more about maternity and other services at St.Vincent Health ministries, visitstvincent.org.
Reviewed by Sharon Johns, R.N., L.C.C.E., F.A.C.C.E., program manager, perinatal support services, St. Vincent Women’s Hospital.