By Emily K. Nease, MD

Dr. Emily Nease

World Breastfeeding Week happens every Aug. 1-7 to support and promote breastfeeding. While breastfeeding is beneficial to babies and mothers, it is not always easy. Support from family members and healthcare professionals is essential for moms and infants to have a successful breastfeeding experience.

Why consider breastfeeding as a source of infant nutrition?

Breastfeeding offers infants unique nutritional and non-nutritional benefits, including medical and neurodevelopmental advantages. Research suggests that longer durations of breastfeeding increase many of its protective outcomes.

What are the recommendations for infant feeding?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the baby’s first six months, followed by continued breastfeeding for the first year and beyond as complementary foods are introduced to the infant’s diet.

How is breastfeeding beneficial for infants?

Breast milk has important nutrients that are easy for babies to digest.

Breastfeeding has been found to protect against certain types of infections. In fact, babies who are breastfed have a reduced risk of hospitalization for lower respiratory tract infections. Breastfed infants also have a lower chance to suffering from ear and gastrointestinal infections. In addition, breastfeeding is associated with a reduction in the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

What about long-term health outcomes?

The incidence of type I diabetes and type II diabetes is reduced in individuals who were exclusively breastfed as infants. There is also documentation of lowered risk of childhood inflammatory bowel disease and allergic diseases, such as asthma and eczema.

Do moms benefit from breastfeeding?

Yes! Research shows there are short- and long-term health benefits for mothers who breastfeed their babies. Breastfeeding can help mothers recover from childbirth more quickly, and it provides a strong physical and emotional bond between mom and baby.

The duration of time a woman spends breastfeeding in her lifetime is cumulative. In other words, if a woman breastfeeds two children, even years apart, the breastfeeding months and years should be added together for the total. Cumulative lactation experience is related to a reduction in high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer.

Are there other pros of breastfeeding?

Yes, definitely. Breastfeeding is free and great for the environment!

Breastfeeding is a naturally renewable resource – no packaging, shipping, or disposal required. There is less use of natural resources and less waste in landfills. Breastfeeding requires an additional 450-500 calories to be added to the mother’s daily diet; this cost is much less than the cost of formula feeding.

What challenges might breastfeeding mothers encounter?

Breastfeeding is a team effort between mom and baby. The infant is obviously new to the breastfeeding experience, and even if the mother has previously breastfed, every baby is different. That’s why WVU Medicine has two lactation clinics – to help moms and babies who may be having trouble with:

  • Latch
  • Low milk supply
  • Breast infections
  • Infant weight gain

If you have questions or would like to schedule a lactation appointment, call 855-WVU-CARE.