Did you know the breastfeeding debate predates our mothers and even our grandmothers? When baby formula was first invented in the late 19th Century, mothers weren’t hurried to go back to work and “daddy feedings” weren’t common practice. For decades, formula feedings weren’t a matter of practicality — they were a sign of prosperity.
Today, however, breastfeeding experts such as Debbie Pierce, NP, IBCLC, Co-chair of the Colorado Kaiser Permanente Breastfeeding Coalition, know the true wealth of natural breast milk.
“Breastfeeding is one of the most important things a mother can do for herself and her baby’s health,” says Pierce, who’s also a pediatric nurse practitioner with Kaiser Permanente’s Perinatal Hospital and Home Care Services. “Breast milk boosts the baby’s immune system and can prevent health complications as they grow. Breastfeeding can also help the mother recover post-pregnancy.” And, she says, it’s a wonderful bonding time for mother and child.
The advantages of breastfeeding are numerous:
Breastfeeding helps babies:
Obtain the proper amount of nutrients
Fight infection and disease
Reduce their risk for ear infections
Reduce their risk for diarrhea
Lower their risk for childhood obesity
Breastfeeding helps moms:
Lose their pregnancy weight more rapidly
Reduce their risk for breast cancer
Reduce their risk for ovarian cancer
Reduce their risk for type 2 diabetes
Reduce postpartum bleeding and depression
A recent Kaiser Permanente study also revealed that breast-feeding can also protect women from metabolic syndrome — a condition linked to diabetes and heart disease. Additional research from the organization also discovered that women with multiple sclerosis who nurse exclusively for the first two months are less likely to experience a relapse within the first year of giving birth.
A network of support
According to Pierce, research on this subject is vital when deciding whether or not to breastfeed. Sharing advice on breastfeeding, referrals to lactation consultants, and a plan for follow-up care are all part of Kaiser Permanente’s prenatal care plan. “A mother’s breastfeeding goals should be discussed well before they give birth,” Pierce says. “Some mothers are concerned that breastfeeding will be painful or that it won’t be possible once they return to work. We can give them the facts and help them reach their goals.”
Kaiser Permanente Colorado post-natal maternity services offer in-home visits from advanced practice nurses who are certified in lactation, as well as classes and support groups.
Kaiser Permanente’s Breastfeeding Coalition is one of the most successful in the nation. The organization consistently exceeds breastfeeding standards set forth by Healthy People 2010 – a national health and disease prevention initiative established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
“At Kaiser Permanente Colorado, 90 percent of our mothers begin to breastfeed in the hospital,” Pierce says. “That exceeds the Healthy People 2010 recommendation by 15 percent. We attribute that success to the Perinatal Home and Hospital Program along with the work of the Coalition.”
Find more facts about the advantages of breastfeeding at www.kp.org.