Like all mammals, human mothers are blessed with the ability to produce and feed their babies milk. Breast milk has always held great cultural significance; the ancient Greeks believed that the Milky Way galaxy was formed by a swirl of the goddess Hera’s breastmilk (and that the breastmilk of a goddess could make a mortal invincible). We recognize National Breastfeeding Month every August.
Though the debate about whether or not to breastfeed is very old, the health benefits cannot be denied. According to the World Health Organization, universal breastfeeding could save about 820,000 infant lives each year.
Read on for even more benefits.
And remember, World Breastfeeding Week runs from August 1 to August 7.
(Written by Hazel O’Neil)
National Breastfeeding Month timeline
Taking a stand
Australian Senator Larissa Waters became the first politician to breastfeed on the Parliament floor. The move was seen as a statement for family-friendly workplaces. Waters played down the publicity — noting that women have been breastfeeding forever.
- August 6, 2011
August named National Breastfeeding Month
The United States Breastfeeding Committee, formed in 1995 to coordinate breastfeeding activities in the U.S., officially set aside August as National Breastfeeding Month.
WHO voted to restrict infant formula ads
President Reagan disagreed — claiming that restrictions violated freedom of speech. In response, many people boycotted Nestle, the largest infant formula manufacturer, until the company adopted the WHO messaging guidelines in 1984.
La Leche League International
Mothers at a church picnic formed a support group. The organization has expanded to spread information worldwide about equipment, technique, and the importance of breastfeeding.
First infant "formula" hits markets
This product, derived from canned milk, blended fat, protein, and sugars meant to mimic human milk. Formula provided an alternative to mothers who could not or did not want to breastfeed.
How to Observe National Breastfeeding Month
Learn some breastfeeding legends
Another woman (often referred to as a wet nurse), or even an animal would breastfeed infants if a mother could not. French orphanages sometimes used a goat (whose milk is nutritionally similar to human breastmilk, though it lacks important antibodies). Remus and Romulus, the twins who founded Rome, were breastfed by a she-wolf.
Be an advocate for breastfeeding mothers
Take time during National Breastfeeding Month to advocate for federal legislation to support breastfeeding mothers. This includes regulations on paid maternity leave policy, building codes that requires sanitary areas for women to breastfeed, and public health information that educates mothers on how and why they should breastfeed their babies.
Whether it's your mother, a sister, a friend, or a co-worker, take time this month to high-five a woman working hard to give her child a healthy start. You could donate to La Leche League International or the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee, which are two organizations that support breastfeeding mothers around the world. If you are a mother, consider donating your old breastfeeding equipment.
5 Breastfeeding Benefits
From the journal "Pediatrics": If 90% of families breastfed exclusively for six months, nearly 1,000 infant deaths could be prevented each year.
Research show breastfed babies have a lower risk of maladies including asthma, ear infections, diabetes, and respiratory problems.
Formula cans and bottles create waste. Breastmilk arrives package-free — and warm!
Often referred to as "liquid gold' for its deep yellow color, colostrum's the thick first milk that you make during pregnancy and just after birth. It's quite rich in both nutrients and antibodies to protect your baby from infection.
Many breastfeeding women seem to get back to their pre-pregnancy weight more quickly, but experts are still looking into the effects.
Why National Breastfeeding Month is Important
Breastfeeding's good for both baby and mother
Most doctors and health organizations worldwide suggest breast milk is the best possible food for an infant for the first six months. Not only does breast milk contain the correct balance of nutrients, but it also boosts a baby's immune and digestive systems with antibodies and good bacteria. For mothers, breastfeeding fosters an emotional bond with their new baby, and reduces the risk of certain cancers.
A lifetime of good health
Tests reveal a correlation between higher intelligence and lower risk of chronic disease in breastfed babies. This is most likely due to antibodies not found in infant formula. Further, there's a much higher risk of infection with improperly sanitized formula.
Breastfeeding's convenient and inexpensive
If a mother maintains a healthy diet, the baby will benefit. Still, breastfeeding's not easy; it takes about as many hours to feed a child for a year as it does to work 40 hours a week at a full-time job. Mothers can feed their babies almost anywhere, especially now that many more public places like airports and offices accommodate breastfeeding. It's also significantly less expensive than purchasing a year's worth of infant formula.