The phrase “breast is best” is something many new moms hear – and rightfully so. With so many benefits for both mother and child, breastfeeding is considered to be the best option when it comes to feeding baby. Just what makes this “liquid gold” so special? And what can be done for babies who need it most?
What’s in it for baby?
Research shows numerous health benefits for a child that is breastfed. According to Sarah Long, IBCLC, Director of Clinical Operations for The Milk Bank, a not-for-profit organization that provides human milk to premature babies in neonatal and newborn intensive care units, breast milk contains cells, hormones and antibodies that protect babies from illness. “This protection is unique and changes every day to meet your baby’ s growing needs,” says Long. The La Leche League, an international organization that promotes breastfeeding, states that breast milk contains thousands of different elements that support a child’s immune system. Some are very specific to protect against a particular bacteria or virus, while others have a more general function. The advantages for breastfed babies can be far-reaching as well. Based on Long’s research from the Office of Women’s Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, breastfed babies have lower risks of asthma, childhood leukemia, childhood obesity, ear infections, eczema, diarrhea and vomiting, respiratory infections, SIDS, necrotizing enterocolitis and Type 2 diabetes.
What’s in it for mom?
From weight loss to disease prevention, breastfeeding does wonders for a woman’s body. Fit Pregnancy and Baby, a health and pregnancy website, notes that moms who breastfeed lower their risks for breast cancer, ovarian cancer, postmenopausal osteoporosis and even cardiovascular disease. Breastfeeding can also speed up postpartum recovery by helping the uterus to return to normal size through the release of the hormone oxytocin. Long adds that breastfeeding mothers are less likely to develop postpartum depression because the increased amounts of oxytocin in their system helps to encourage relaxation and bonding.
Health benefits aside, breastfeeding can be very economical for families – providing a savings up to $1,200 to $1, 500 a year, which is the yearly cost of formula according to the United States Breastfeeding Committee. Breastfeeding can also offer a way for moms to connect and relate to each other, as meet ups and breastfeeding support groups become increasingly popular.
Helping babies in need
Some moms have difficulty making or sustaining a supply of breast milk, especially if their infants are born prematurely. And babies who are dealing with health issues can benefit enormously from donated milk. To help these infants, The Milk Bank, the first and only donor human milk bank in Indiana, receives human milk from screened donors and then pasteurizes and freezes this milk, distributing it throughout the United States.
“Human milk is important for all babies. But, for medically fragile or premature infants, human milk is even more critical,” says Long. “It can help babies grow, avoid illness and leave the NICU sooner.” Long also notes that when a mother’s own milk is unavailable for premature infants, pasteurized donor breast milk is truly the next best thing.
For those interested in donating milk, The Milk Bank is seeking healthy, lactating mothers with an excess supply of breast milk. In order to volunteer, women go through a screening process and must be:
– Currently lactating
– In good general health
– Willing to undergo a blood test (at the expense of Mother’s Milk Bank)
– Free of medication or herbal supplements (with some exceptions)
– Willing to donate at least 200 ounces of milk (no requirement for bereaved mothers)
Looking to get involved with the cause of breastfeeding in a different way? The Breastfeeding Coalition of Hamilton County is a group of parents and health care professionals passionate about breastfeeding. Their goal is to create a breastfeeding culture in Hamilton County through education, community outreach and support for breastfeeding moms. This local nonprofit works with pharmacies to open free baby weight checks and community businesses to encourage breastfeeding in their stores. For more information, visit www.breastfeedhamilton.org.
Whether moms bottle or breastfeed, this time spent together can provide a special time to bond and feel connected. For those moms who breastfeed, donating your milk can be an invaluable way to share the many health benefits breast milk provides to babies who need it most.
Celebrate World Breastfeeding Week with The Milk Bank August 1-7
August 5 Highlighted Sponsor at Indy Eleven
August 4-20 Visit the air-conditioned RV for lactation purposes at the Indiana State Fair
August 24 Pints for Preemies
Drop off locations for The Milk Bank in Hamilton County
395 Westfield Rd., Noblesville
INDIANA BLOOD CENTER: FISHERS
7458 E. Fishers Station Dr., Fishers
(317) 576- 9680
INDIANA BLOOD CENTER: CARMEL
726 Adams St, Ste 150, Carmel
(317) 844 – 0313