As the saying goes “breast milk is best”

As the saying goes “breast milk is best,” and more than 85 percent of new moms who give birth at the University of Michigan Health System agree and continue to breastfeed their new bundle of joy, on average, for the first six months.

“If a nursing mom is properly instructed, breastfeeding can be a rewarding experience with many wonderful health benefits,” says Joan Dushane, RN, part of the new Lactation Team at the UMHS Birth Center .

Now, as part of World Breastfeeding Week (Aug. 1 – Aug. 7), the Birth Center's new, specially-trained team of 25 nurses and three lactation consultants is sharing its success and spreading the word about the health, emotional and financial benefits of lactation to encourage even more moms in Michigan to initiate breastfeeding.

Although breastfeeding rates have been steadily increasing in Michigan , with more than 64 percent of moms initiating breastfeeding in 2001 in the state compared to nearly 70 percent nationwide, Dushane and her colleagues want to make sure that number continues to rise.

That's why the UMHS Lactation Team is devoted to helping moms learn the basics – and the benefits – of breastfeeding before they and their new baby leave the Birth Center . The Lactation Team consults with the parents and provides educational videos and pamphlets for them to view when they are admitted to the hospital for delivery.

Once the baby has arrived and mom is ready to begin breastfeeding, the Lactation Team is right there by her side to help. Even when mom and baby go home, the Lactation Team is only a telephone call away, should mom need some help or advice.

“Our team makes sure our moms leave feeling confident in their ability to breastfeed and that the baby is being well fed, which is one of the main reasons why we have had such a huge success rate with our new moms,” says Dushane.

Knowing the initial and long-term health benefits involved with breastfeeding also encourages moms to initiate and stick with breastfeeding. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that children receive breast milk for the first year of life.

Breastfed newborns tend to have a lower incidence of ear infections, respiratory infections, gastroenteritis, diarrhea, and a lower rate of hospitalization than children who are formula fed. Studies have also shown that a breastfed child has better cognitive function and visual acuity.

As for mom, the baby's nursing causes her uterus to contract and reduces blood-flow after delivery, which lowers her risk of developing breast cancer or even uterine cancer. Women who breastfeed also are at a reduced risk for heart disease and osteoporosis, and have better emotional health and diabetes control.

Breastfeeding can help mom quickly burn off some of the weight put on during pregnancy, too. Nursing moms burn 500 more calories a day than women who are not pregnant or nursing, which works to speed up their weight loss after childbirth.

The environment and the economy, too, reap the benefits of breastfeeding. When a family chooses to breastfeed a child instead of using formula, there is not only a decrease in air, water and land pollution from the production of formula and its packaging, but a family also can save about $2,000 a year that would otherwise have been spent on formula.

Michigan also could save millions of dollars each year with higher breastfeeding rates, according to Healthy People 2010. If at least 50 percent of new moms breastfed for the first six months, the U.S. could save $3.6 billion a year in treatment costs of just three infant/childhood diseases – ear infections, gastroenteritis and necrotizing enterocolitis.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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