Every once in a while it feels right to go back to basics. I mean the basics of what makes us healthy, happy and whole human beings.
One of the best ways to start is the simple and fundamental connection for both mothers and babies - breastfeeding. Before we get to the details, I first want to acknowledge that some women right here in Mesa County have had trouble with breastfeeding in public because of complaints. In the state of Colorado, a mother may breastfeed in any place she has a right to be, and an employer must provide reasonable unpaid break times, meal times (or both), every day. I thought I'd detail some of the amazing benefits of this time-tested ritual, and hopefully it will be just the reminder that some young and nervous mothers need.
Even though I disagree with some of the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics, they are spot on in terms of their breastfeeding policy, which is "6 months of exclusive breastfeeding (no formula or solid foods) and at least 1 year of breastfeeding (along with food)."
• Antibodies are passed from the mother to the baby through breast milk, which provides increased immunity. Breastfed babies have lower rates of the following conditions compared to formula-fed babies: allergies, ear infections, respiratory tract infections, colic, diarrhea, bacterial sepsis, atopic skin disorders, Crohn's disease, meningitis, ulcerative colitis, vomiting and autoimmune thyroid disease.
• Breast milk can prevent asthma. Use of milk, other than breast milk, prior to 4 months of age is associated with increased asthma incidence through 6 years of age.
• Breastfed babies have a better immune response to vaccinations than do formula-fed babies in general.
• Babies who are breastfed statistically have IQs 6-10 points higher and have better vision than formula fed babies.
• Breast milk nutrients change throughout the infant's life to promote optimal brain and body development.
• Breastfeeding decreases infant morbidity and hospitalization rates tenfold, as well as decreasing the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome.
• Human milk is protective against childhood obesity. Obese children have a high risk of the following conditions as adults: obesity, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, gout, etc.
• Increased mother-baby bonding.
• Nursing stimulates uterine contraction, which decreases postpartum bleeding.
• Breastfeeding reduces the risk of ovarian cancer and breast cancer.
• Breastfeeding builds bone strength reducing your risk of osteoporosis.
• Exclusive breastfeeding "on-demand" is a 98% effective form of birth control during the first six months postpartum if there is no return of menses during that time. Check with your doctor for more information.
• Breastfeeding delays the return of menses.
• Mothers return to pre-pregnancy weight faster.
• Increased mother-baby bonding.
• Breast milk does not need to be prepared, is always available, costs nothing, and is environmentally friendly. (Formula costs between $1,300-$3,300 during the first year of life.)
There are some limited reasons that mothers will not be able to breastfeed their babies. For example, certain drug use (check with a lactation consultant or your doctor if you are on prescription medications), rare hereditary metabolic disorders (i.e. galactosemia), HIV/AIDS (unless the mother is living in a developing country, of course), or other serious maternal or infant illnesses. But even the latter can be worked around. This is where lactation consultants are fantastic and really help.
One of the best resources for this and other pregnancy-related questions you may have is Birthsmart, based right here in Grand Junction. Please check out their information-rich website at www.birthsmart.org. They have many birth-related events, the next one being FilmFest 2012. It features films from six different births in a variety of settings, including medicated, c-section, VBAC and home births. A discussion panel of local birth professionals will follow the films, and it all takes place this Saturday, Nov. 10, at The Hampton Inn at 205 Main St. Cost is $15 for couples, $10 for singles.
In the end, this is the most natural of activities for a new mother. The simplest way to put it moms is, be proud of breastfeeding your babies, and make sure you know your rights!
Dr. Christopher Lepisto graduated as a naturopathic doctor (ND) from Bastyr University in Seattle, Wash. He is a native of Grand Junction and opened his practice here in 2004. Previously, Lepisto lived and worked in New Zealand, where he developed a special interest in indigenous herbal medicines. For more information, visit www.grandjunctionnaturopath.com or call 970-250-4104.