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Breastfeeding: Best for You and Your Baby
By Nancy Brent, M.D. IBCLC

Everyone will tell you that breastfeeding is best for babies, but have you ever wondered why?

Is it really that different from infant formula? The answer is yes, it is remarkably different and better than formula. And that's true not only for babies, but for mothers too. What makes breastfeeding unique? For infants, it is the ideal form of nutrition. Although the formula industry does a fairly good job at imitating breast milk, it can never do so completely, because breast milk keeps changing. It changes depending on how old the baby is, whether or not he or she is premature, time of day, and even from the beginning to the end of a single feeding. In the beginning of the feeding, it is high in protein, but at the end, it is creamier and helps to fill the baby up. Perhaps because it is the ideal infant food, toddlers who were breastfed have a lower incidence of obesity than those who were artificially fed.

In addition, there are many diseases which are decreased in breastfed infants. These include infections, ranging from ear infections to meningitis. Allergic disorders, such as asthma and eczema are also decreased in breastfed babies. Children are also protected from a long list of conditions with unknown causes, such as diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, cancer and sudden infant death syndrome. Breastfed infants even have an IQ advantage over formula fed infants.

What parents wouldn't want to give their child a few extra IQ points? And what effect would it have on society if everyone were just a little bit brighter?

What are the effects on mom? Breastfeeding helps you lose weight faster after the baby is born. It also serves as a natural form of birth control. In the long term, it will protect you from uterine and pre-menopausal breast cancer. It is also free, doesn't need refrigeration, is there whenever and wherever you need it, and doesn't require any preparation in the middle of the night. It brings a closeness between mother and baby that cannot be compared to anything else anyone can do. This is a special and precious time for just the two of you.

So why doesn't everyone breastfeed? There are several myths that tend to scare women away from nursing. The first is that it hurts. The truth is that it only hurts if something is going wrong. If the baby is nursing correctly, mother will feel a tugging sensation that is not painful.

Another misconception is that it ties a mother down. In reality, mothers can learn how to nurse their babies discretely in public. Mothers can pump their breasts when away from their babies and let another caretaker give that milk in a bottle. Many working women who have no time to pump can still breastfeed their babies when they are home, and have the babies take formula during working hours.

One more concern is that breastfeeding will negatively change the appearance of the breasts. This happens, if at all, due to pregnancy and not due to breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is most definitely the best way to feed babies, for all concerned. It is a learned art, and it may take some time and attention to get started. But don't get discouraged. With a little attention in the first few weeks, your baby will be off to a great start in life, and all thanks to you.

For more information, contact The Breastfeeding Center of Pittsburgh, Pediatric Alliance, P.C. at (412) 246-4726 or visit www.breastfeedingcenterofpittsburgh.com or www.pediatricalliance.com

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