For The Leader
Sometimes the oldest way of doing something really is the best – especially when it comes to feeding your baby.
In the 151 years since the first artificial milk appeared on the market, nobody has ever been able to develop a product as good as breast milk.
The benefits for both babies and mothers are indisputable, according to Carie Miller, RN, MSN, the Perinatal Community Outreach Coordinator, at the Family Birthing Center at Memorial Hermann Greater Heights Hospital.
“First, breast milk is more than food; it’s protection for babies,” she says. “Antibodies for anything the mother has been exposed to are contained in the milk. It provides anti-virals, anti-fungals, anti-bacterials and probiotics that are unique to a baby’s needs.”
That is why breastfed babies typically are healthier and have lower medical costs. Also, breastfeeding reduces the baby’s risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and developing allergies, asthma, diabetes and certain cancers, particularly leukemias.
The benefits of breastfeeding can last a lifetime.
Breastfeeding also supports better brain development. The fat in breast milk, according to Miller, finishes off babies’ brain development in a way that has never been reproduced in alternative milk substances. Put simply – “Baby Mozart” and intellectual stimulation games cannot substitute for six months to a year of breastfeeding.
The reason is fairly simple, Miller explains. “Milk from a cow – the basis of breast milk substitutes – is designed to create muscle. Human milk, on the other hand, creates brains.”
Mothers see the benefits of breastfeeding as well. Beyond the natural bonding that occurs, breastfeeding reduces the risk of post-partum hemorrhage, breast and ovarian cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the longer a mother breastfeeds, the greater the protection.
Some mothers-to-be worry about the economics of breastfeeding.
What if there’s not enough supply to meet the baby’s nutritional demands? That, Miller reassures, isn’t a worry. “The more the baby feeds, the more the supply is replenished.”
She cites an example that board-certified lactation consultant Dana Havard, RN, shares with her breastfeeding classes at Memorial Hermann Greater Heights. “It’s like an icemaker. As long as you’re using ice, the bin refills. When you stop, the bin quits refilling and the ice begins to evaporate and disappear.”
What about the myth that breastfeeding is “inconvenient”?
Miller sees breast milk as the ultimate convenience food. There are no bottles to clean, no sterilizing, nothing –in most instances — to warm at feeding time. There’s nothing to buy, store, mix or refrigerate; and no product recalls to worry about. Everything is self-contained, close-at-hand and, most importantly, formulated specifically for each baby.
Memorial Hermann Greater Heights offers two breastfeeding classes each month, taught by board-certified lactation consultants like Havard. The one-time, two-and-a-half-hour session builds expectant mothers’ confidence and helps them understand what’s normal (and what’s not) and how to prevent problems. Although it’s never too early in the pregnancy to discuss breastfeeding with the OB/Gyn, Miller advises taking the class during the third trimester because the delivery is much more immediate.
Memorial Hermann Greater Heights also offers newborn and breastfeeding classes in Spanish.
For more information about breastfeeding and other classes at Memorial Hermann Greater Heights, visit the class registration page at memorialhermann.org or call 713-222-CARE.