Breastfeeding is the way that human infants are intended to be fed. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive nursing for the first six months of life.
It is still a skill, like dancing, that both partners in the activity have to learn.
There are advantages and barriers to breastfeeding an infant.
Human milk has all the nutrients that a baby needs to grow for the first six months of life.
The only major exception is vitamin D, which can be made in the baby’s skin with exposure to sunlight in some cultures and climates.
Breast milk is always at the right temperature, and breasts are reusable for multiple infants, so it is also environmentally beneficial to breastfeed.
Human breast milk can benefit both the nursing infant and the breastfeeding mother.
Babies who are breastfed have a decreased risk of SIDS (crib death), lower respiratory infections and middle ear infections.
The duration and severity of gastroenteritis are decreased if a baby is nursing.
Later on, the baby will have a decreased chance of developing asthma, eczema, Type 2 diabetes mellitus, two different types of leukemia or being obese.
Mothers who breastfeed have decreased risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer later. In addition, their pregnancy weight usually comes off faster.
There are some significant barriers to breastfeeding in the U.S. Many people, including family members of new mothers, may have a negative attitude toward breastfeeding.
Mothers tend to be more successful with nursing in a supportive environment.
A nursing mother may feel embarrassed to nurse her baby, especially in public.
Many people, including some store or restaurant managers, may not agree with breastfeeding in public.
They may confront a nursing mother about this. If a big deal is not made about public breastfeeding, it ceases to be a big deal.
I have noticed over the years that quite a few mothers stop breastfeeding when they return to work.
Most cannot logistically nurse their babies while at work for various reasons. It also may be difficult for them to pump and store their breast milk while working.
As far as I’m concerned, mothers who continue breastfeeding their babies while working should be encouraged and accommodated.
I have had partners at work who have successfully continued breastfeeding their babies while doing what I do.
The number of mothers who at least try breastfeeding has been going up in the U.S. We need to continue to encourage and support these women.