Deciding whether or not to breastfeed is highly personal choice that depends on many social, cultural, personal, and environmental factors. That said, breastfeeding is very effective in protecting the health of both baby and mother. Breastfeeding improves your child’s nutrition, ensures food security and reduces inequalities.
Six Months of Exclusive Breastfeeding is Recommended
The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend that infants be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their lives. This is to help your baby achieve optimal development, growth, and health in the months after birth.
Breast Milk Has Many Benefits for Babies
Breast milk contains many important nutrients that are crucial to helping an infant grow and fight illness. Breast milk also protects the infant against type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and childhood obesity. Additionally, the skin-to-skin contact helps you and your infant bond.
Breastfeeding Carries Many Health Benefits for Mothers
Problems with Breastfeeding are Common
It’s important to consult with your physician if you experience these or any other problems related to breastfeeding. A few signs of potential issues include:
- Breastfeeding sessions that are shorter than 10 minutes or longer than 50 minutes
- Severe pain that interferes with breastfeeding
- The infant appearing hungry after most feedings
- The infant being under their birth weight by two weeks of age
Breastfeeding Rates Vary Geographically
Infants in urban areas, for example, are more likely to be breastfed than those living in rural areas. And infants who live in the southeast are less likely to be breastfed at six months of age compared to infants who live in other parts of the U.S.
Older Mothers Are More Likely to Breastfeed
Mothers older than 30 are more likely to breastfeed than mothers between the ages of 20 and 29. One study found that younger women were just as likely to start breastfeeding as older women, but were twice as likely to stop breastfeeding within six months.
Most Breastfed Babies Are Given Formula Within The First Three Months
Somewhere around 84 percent of new mothers start out breastfeeding. However, by the time their infant is six months old, the number of mothers exclusively breastfeeding drops to 25 percent. Likewise, statistics show that more than 66 percent of breastfeeding mothers begin to use formula by the time their infant is three months old.
Women Don’t Breastfeed or Stop Breastfeeding for Many Reasons
Breastfeeding can be difficult and there are a variety of reasons why women don’t breastfeed or stop breastfeeding. At Women’s Health Arizona, we recognize that there are many circumstances where breastfeeding isn’t possible or enjoyable. We support you in finding what works best for you and your family, whether that be breastfeeding or formula feeding your baby.
Reasons women don’t breastfeed or stop breastfeeding include:
- Concerns about the baby’s weight and/or nutrition
- Problems with latching and lactation
- Cultural constraints
- Lack of family support
- Unsupportive workplace policies
- Lack of parental leave after the baby is born
- Unsupportive hospital policies and practices
- Lack of education
- Concerns about taking medication while breastfeeding
Black Infants are Less Likely to Be Breastfed
Non-Hispanic black infants are less likely to be breastfed than Hispanic infants and non-Hispanic white infants, according to the CDC. Statistics show that 58 percent of African-American babies breastfeed upon birth, but only 28 percent breastfeed at all at six months, and only eight percent exclusively breastfeed at six months.
Opinions Toward Breastfeeding in Public Are Mainly Positive
A total of 68 percent of respondents in a survey of public opinions toward breastfeeding said they believe women should have the right to breastfeed in public spaces, and 66 percent believe that public buildings should have a room where women can breastfeed and pump milk.
Breast Milk Has Proper Storage and Preparation Guidelines
Breast milk stays fresh for up to four days in the refrigerator, and for up to four hours at room temperature (following pumping).
Breast Milk is Easier to Digest Than Formula
Breast milk is easier for your infant to digest than formula (which is commonly made from cow’s milk). This is particularly true for babies who are born prematurely.
If you would like to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, consider contacting Women’s Health Arizona. As Arizona’s largest ObGyn group, we’re trained and solely dedicated to delivering the best ObGyn experience in convenient and comfortable settings around Phoenix.