Breastfeeding success creates lifetime of benefits

To reach the goal of exclusive breastfeeding, mothers need a team of helpers and health care professionals to support them. (iStock photo / Getty Images)

By the International Lactation Consultant Association

World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated Aug. 1-7. This year’s theme is “Breastfeeding: A Winning Goal for Life!,” which acknowledges that when mothers and babies succeed in their breastfeeding plans, they can enjoy a lifetime of benefits.

Infant feeding is one of the most important decisions a family can make, and most women who choose to breastfeed have a specific goal in mind. Research shows that babies who receive only breastmilk for the first six months of life are less likely to develop a wide range of chronic and acute diseases, including ear infections, diarrheal disease, asthma, obesity and respiratory illnesses. Mothers also benefit from breastfeeding with a decreased risk for breast and ovarian cancers.

To reach the goal of exclusive breastfeeding, mothers need a team of helpers and health care professionals to support them. The breastfeeding team can include family, friends, physicians, nurses, midwives, employers and childcare providers. Together the breastfeeding team provides information to boost confidence, protects mothers against critics, gives reassurance and lends a hand to help breastfeeding mothers succeed. Team members with special skills and knowledge about breastfeeding, such as a peer counselor or an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) are especially helpful.

“An IBCLC is often the ‘head coach’ for the breastfeeding team, providing unique expertise and guidance for a mother,” said Decalie Brown, president of the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA). “When mothers and babies are able to reach their breastfeeding goals, they also contribute to community prosperity, health, equity, and environmental sustainability.

“Additionally, breastfeeding provides appropriate nutrition for infant growth, sets the stage for school-readiness and contributes to a cleaner environment with less waste. Together all of these small contributions add up for improved global health.”

At Children’s Hospitals and The Mother Baby Center, Clinics of Minnesota, Abbott Northwestern Hospital and United Hospital, lactation consultants and staff nurses with additional education in lactation provide breastfeeding and lactation support. In addition, The Mother Baby Center and United Hospital lactation consultants see mother-baby dyads in their outpatient clinics.

Kathy Parrish, RN, a lactation consultant at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota and The Mother Baby Center, contributed to this blog post.

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