National Naval Medical Centre Encourage Breastfeeding

August 15, 2003 -Medical experts at the National Naval Medical Center (NNMC) are hoping to encourage new parents to give their babies a healthy start through breastfeeding.

"We want to invite mothers and families to take advantage of our breastfeeding services any time they need to," said NNMC's OB/GYN Clinic lactation consultant Liz Flight. "We want to spread the message that breastfeeding is better for mom, for baby, for family, for the world."

According to the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), breast milk is the most complete form of nutrition for infants. It contains the correct amount of fat, sugar, water, and protein a baby needs for proper growth and development.

Most babies are able to digest breast milk easier than they do formula and breastfed infants mature without problems, and they tend to be leaner than bottle-fed babies, and are less overweight later in life.

Breast milk contains antibodies that help protect infants from bacteria and viruses. Some results from studies have showed that breastfed infants have lower rates of chronic childhood diseases like diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, cancer, allergies and asthma.

Mothers can also greatly benefit from breastfeeding. Nursing can help new mothers shed extra pregnancy pounds and restore the uterus to its original size. Breastfeeding also lowers the risk of breast cancer and may reduce the risk of ovarian cancer, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

"Breastfeeding helps mom make her first commitment to her baby," said Flight. "It also forms a bond between the whole family. Dad's role becomes nurturing mom, and the whole family structure is strengthened."

Furthermore, breastfeeding saves time and money. WABA studies show globally that medical care for breast-fed infants costs less than bottle-fed babies because they require less medical attention. Employers benefit because mothers miss less work to take care of their sick infants. As a result, employer medical costs are also lower and employee productivity is higher.

According to WABA, artificial milk can cost more than 50 percent of the family income. Impoverished families often dilute formulas to make them last longer, decreasing their nutritional value. Diluted formula, coupled with unsafe water, makes children prone to diarrhea and malnutrition.

Many women choose not to breast feed due to lack of education and support by their family and peers.

"A lot of new mothers are afraid that they won't know how to feed their babies properly," explained Flight. "Or they think that it will hurt, or that that they won't be able to produce enough food for their babies. If they are feeling uncomfortable because of lack of support, I encourage them to try nursing alone and observe how their baby does. Seeing her baby feeding contently usually motivates mom to give breastfeeding a try."

"It's unfortunate that something as natural as breastfeeding is hidden in this country," said Army Lt. Col. Chris Macedonia, associate director for Women's Health at NNMC. "In Europe, it is commonplace to see women feeding their babies in public places. It is nothing to be ashamed of."

Source: National Naval Medical Center Navy NewsStand

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