The old adage "You are what you eat" is most true for the youngest of our population, our infants. Decades of scientific research data overwhelmingly shows that breastfed children are healthier, have fewer illnesses, diseases and obesity in infancy as well as throughout childhood. This irrefutable data shows breast milk to be the best nutrition for newborns and infants. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics and
the American Academy of Family Practice all recommend breast milk as the preferred feeding choice for infants during the first six months of life. They also recommend its continuance with the introduction of solid foods until the infant reaches 12 months of age. Breastfeeding may continue thereafter for as long the mom and baby mutually desire.
But it is not just the infant that benefits from the breastfeeding experience. Recent research reveals women derive short and long term effects from lactating. Weight loss, enhanced bonding, less postpartum depression, and its cost-effectiveness are a few of the short term effects. Significant long-term benefits which affect a woman’s quality of life include less diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and breast and ovarian cancers. Most women are unaware of personal health benefits derived from breastfeeding. If that information were to be shared with them prenatally, it could provide the encouragement needed for more mothers to decide to breastfeed.
Nationally, state and federal laws have been legislated that protect a woman’s right to breastfeed in public domains and to express breast milk while working. The most recent healthcare bill, The Affordable Care Act, 2009, requires all insurance companies to provide a breast pump and breastfeeding assistance to all new mothers. However, the provisions do vary among the various insurance companies so it is wise to inquire about the specifics of these benefits.
In an effort to support new mothers with breastfeeding, there are several area resources available. The Women’s Hospital in addition to other area Hospitals in both Evansville and Henderson provide inpatient and outpatient lactation assistance. Also, the area’s WIC Departments offer breastfeeding assistance for those enrolled in their program. This year, with funding made possible by the CDC’s Breastfeeding Supplemental Support Project grant, The Women’s Hospital established outpatient lactation clinics, free of charge, at Deaconess Family Medicine Center and The Wildflowers at Memorial Baptist Church and the Evansville Christian Life Center.