Breastfeeding is the most natural way to feed a baby. No other method of feeding is as healthy for your baby as breastfeeding. These benefits begin the minute the infant is born and may last for a lifetime. Breastfeeding can also benefit the environment.
Research shows that breastfeeding and breast milk are important for the environment, the infant, the mother and society.
Benefits for the environment
- Breast milk is a natural and renewable resource that causes no environmental harm
- Mother’s milk is not an industrially manufactured product–no wastes are generated to pollute air, water, soils or oceans
- Breast milk needs no packaging–no resources are needed to make all of the cans, labels, packets, boxes and plastic wraps
- Breast milk needs no fuel for preparation. No wood, gas or electricity is needed, so no greenhouse gasses or air pollutants are released
- Breast milk uses no water for preparation or clean-up
Benefits for the child
Children who are breastfed receive many health benefits, including:
- Lower rates of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- Fewer illnesses like diarrhea, ear infections, colds, meningitis
- Higher scores on intelligence and vision tests
- Fewer cases of some kinds of cancer, like Hodgkin’s disease, childhood leukemia
- Lower the risk of diabetes
- Protection against asthma and eczema (a type of skin irritation)
- Lower risk of obesity
- Have fewer cavities and are less likely to require braces
The United States has one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the world. While many new mothers start out breastfeeding, more than half stop shortly after the baby is born. Babies aren’t the only ones that benefit from breastfeeding, though. It also has advantages for new moms. Breastfeeding may:
- Help moms return to pre-pregnancy weight faster
- Decrease risk anemia and excessive bleeding after birth
- Help moms miss fewer days at work
- Decrease risk of breast and ovarian cancer
- Reduce risk of osteoporosis
Breastfeeding is cost effective
Our society can greatly benefit from increased breastfeeding. The estimated cost of feeding a baby formula rather than breastfeeding is approximately $1,300 per year; that’s four times what it costs to breastfeed. The nutrients in breast milk may keep children from getting sick as often, therefore reducing the number of days off work parents would take to care for their children. Breastfeeding cuts down on the need for costly health services paid for by insurers, government agencies or families. It’s also more cost effective and better for the environment. It requires no electricity or fuel for its production or packing, thus making it more cost-effective and environmentally friendly.
Local support for breastfeeding
The breastfeeding peer counseling program offered at JCHD is designed to encourage breastfeeding and assist mothers needing advice and guidance. It is provided by the Health Department and is open to any mother enrolled in the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) nutrition supplement program and who plans to breastfeed her child. Our peer counselors are available to support mothers outside of regular business hours to answer any breastfeeding questions our WIC mothers may have or to provide immediate referral to a Certified Lactation Counselor. For more information, please contact Ann Stevens.
Returning to Work
As part of the March 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (commonly known as health care reform), federal law protects breastfeeding mothers. Nursing mothers who work for a company with more than 50 employees are now entitled to the following: reasonable break time to express milk (can be unpaid), and employers must create or designate a lactation area–other than a bathroom–that is private.
Even with all of these benefits, many new mothers may hesitate to breastfeed because of the unwanted attention they might receive from others while breastfeeding in public places. Kentucky law guarantees that cities, counties and public places don’t ban public breastfeeding. The law prevents breastfeeding in public from being considered an act of public indecency. It also forbids any city or person from restricting a mother from breastfeeding in a location where she is otherwise allowed to be. Kentucky is one of at least 35 states with a law protecting public breastfeeding.
Kentucky Department for Public Health: Breastfeeding
LaLache League International
Womenshealth.gov: The National Women’s Health Information Center
United States Breastfeeding Committee
International Lactation Consultant Association
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Breastfeeding