By this point, most of us could recite the reasons why nursing is so good for you and baby (thanks, #BreastIsBest!). But a new body of research has uncovered two unexpected ways breastfeeding can benefit your child long after he’s weaned.
“Our early taste preferences, particularly for fruits and vegetables, and on the flip side for sugary beverages, are lasting,” Dr. Elsie M. Taveras, chief of the division of general pediatrics at MassGeneral Hospital for Children in Boston, told the Times. Though she wasn’t involved in the research, she added that “these studies are suggesting that in terms of diet quality, the die might be cast in the first year.”
But breastfeeding can impact more than baby’s diet — the very act of nursing can beneficial, too, reports U.S. News & World Report. Drawing milk from a breast is tough work. In order to eat, your child’s muscles, tongue, and jaw have to work in tandem in a much different way than if he was bottle feeding. Some experts believe breastfeeding is essential to a properly developed jaw and airway and good dental health, according to the article. To wit, one study of more than 1,000 preschoolers found that those who were breastfed were less likely to have an overcrowded mouth or issues with the alignment of their teeth. And more recently, a January 2014 study discovered that 8-year-olds who were breastfed as babies and had a family history of asthma were less likely to snore or struggle with sleep apnea. That could be because sleep apnea is common in people with a high palate and narrow dental arch, which are more likely in bottle-fed babies.
Does all this research mean bottle-fed babies are destined for a life of weight struggles and scary sleep apnea? Of course not. But hopefully, findings like these will help educate moms who are considering breastfeeding — and encourage women who are struggling to keep at it.
Tell us: If you’re breastfeeding, how is it going so far?
The stats are a real eye-opener: 79 percent of white babies born in 2010 were breastfed from birth, compared with 62 percent of black babies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). By six months, 52 percent of white babies were still nursing, compared with 36 percent of black babies, reports the BBC.
As reported in the Huffington Post, the CDC examined 2,643 hospitals across the country and found that ones in zip codes with more than 12.2 percent black residents were dropping the ball when it came to breastfeeding education and support. In some cases, the disparity is particularly striking. Compared to hospitals in zip codes with fewer black residents, these facilities were less likely to help new moms breastfeed within an hour of baby’s birth (46 percent compared with 59.9 percent). They were also more lax on limiting infants’ meals to breast milk (13.1 percent compared with 25.8 percent), and were less prone to letting infants spend the majority of their hospital stay in the same room as mom, which helps promote breastfeeding (27.7 compared with 39.4 percent).
And make no mistake — those early days with baby are a perfect time for moms to learn best practices when it comes to nursing. “Hospital practices during that childbirth period have a major impact on whether a mother is able to start and continue breastfeeding,” said Jennifer Lind, the lead researcher on the CDC study. “So it’s very important that hospitals support mothers in their breastfeeding decisions and follow the recommended policies that have been proven to support breastfeeding.”
Still, experts point out, a supportive hospital environment can only go so far. Breastfeeding moms need continued support from their community after they’ve been discharged and especially if they return to work — two areas some say are lacking. (Kimberly Seals Allers, who organized Black Breastfeeding Week this week, told the Huffington Post that people wondered whether her baby was getting enough food from exclusive breastfeeding, and some told her that nursing “is for poor people.”).
Which makes high-profile events like Black Breastfeeding Week all the more important. For its part, the CDC and the National Initiative for Children’s Healthcare Quality are conducting a three-year project focused on raising breastfeeding rates at 89 hospitals in low-income areas. And it’s money well spent. After all, every mother should be given all the facts and all the support she needs before deciding whether to breastfeed.
Tell us: What kind of breastfeeding education did you receive after delivering your baby?
In the video below, Wilde is seen next to a (rather large!) green bucket filled with a milky white liquid. She says, “I hope it’s okay. Couldn’t find any water, so I’m gonna use breast milk. Took me all night to make this!” Then she lifts the entire bucket and pours the ice-cold milk on herself!
Some commentators have already noted that Wilde’s breast milk reveal is most likely a joke — and she even published the explanation tweet below.
Oh wait some of you thought that was really breast milk? Oh dear. Uh thank you? But my boobs aren’t that generous. Haha.
Whew. We’re relieved! August is also Breastfeeding Awareness Month, so we’re glad Wilde didn’t just waste several gallons of precious breast milk that some moms would be desperate to have! Wilde probably used soy or almond milk, as she is a vegan (who only ditched her diet temporarily during pregnancy).
Ingrid Wiese Hesson’s birthday discount from Anthropologie was burning a hole in her pocket. So she packed up her six-week-old son and headed over to the store in Beverly Hills. It was her first postpartum shopping trip, and it was a fruitful one — all told, she loaded up on more than $700 worth of nursing-friendly clothes, E! Online reports. The new mom was all smiles leaving the register when her baby began crying. He was hungry.
What she did next — find a chair toward the back of the nearly empty store, slip on a nursing cover and feed her baby — was perfectly acceptable. After all, California law allows moms to breastfeed in public. But the store’s staff felt otherwise and escorted the humiliated mom to the stock room bathroom, which offered only a toilet as a seat. The manager’s reasoning? “I thought you and the other customers would be more comfortable off the sales floor,” she allegedly told Hesson later, adding “we must be fair to all the customers, not just moms.”
Understandably enraged, Hesson walked out and wrote a terse email to management; the corporate office responded with a post on its Facebook page that disavowed what the manager told Hesson and promised to improve staff training and education. But that, apparently, wasn’t enough to assuage Hesson. She tapped into the frustrations of nursing moms everywhere who’ve been shamed while feeding al fresco and staged a breastfeeding sit-in at the store. “100+ women Breastfeeding at the Beverly Hills Anthropologie!!! Mommy strong! Refuse to move! Know your rights!!” she wrote on her Facebook page.
While I literally applauded Hesson after reading about her awesome comeback, her experience at Anthropologie is just the latest in a long string of incidents where nursing moms are coaxed — or sometimes forced — into feeding their baby in private, usually in a crowded back room or hovering above a public toilet. This is despite the fact that a woman’s right to breastfeed in public or private is protected by law in 46 states, Washington, D.C., and the Virgin Islands. What galls me most is that nursing moms aren’t whipping out their breasts to shock and awe the public; they’re simply trying to feed their hungry children. It’s not some excuse to go all Bourbon Street in the the middle of the day; it’s a part of the job description. (And I don’t know about you, but some days it did feel like a job.)
My colleague Erika Rasmusson Janes recently wrote a great piece that questioned why people are making such a big deal out of seeing a mom with a baby latched on to her breast. After all, she wrote, ”breastfeeding in public is not immoral, indecent, or obscene. It’s not something that should be relegated to dirty public restrooms (or even clean ones, for that matter. Breast milk isn’t bodily waste, after all.)” So while it’s great when corporations offer up apologies, like Anthropologie did here, what breastfeeding moms need more is the freedom to do what they need to do — without all the judgment.
Tell us: Have you tried to breastfeed in public? How did it go?
Candid lyrics aside, the singer/songwriter is famously private but decided to post the throwback pic on social media to help promote World Breastfeeding Week, reports Ireland’s RSVPmagazine.com. The seven-day event is designed raise awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding and help garner support for nursing moms around the globe. The personal photo should come as no surprise to her fans — the artist has made no secret of her opinion about breastfeeding. “I’ll breastfeed, and I’ll be breastfeeding until my son is finished and he weans,” she said during a 2012 interview with Access Hollywood. “I think it affords the child, when he grows up, to have a lot less therapy to go to. For me, I protect his safety and his well-being and his attachment. That stage of development is a very important stage.”
Well, I’m not sure about that whole therapy part, but I do agree that nursing is a great thing to do for your baby. The health benefits are numerous, and the bonding opportunities it gives you are tough to beat (trust me on that one). If you have the desire to do it — and the supply — it’s a no-brainer. And even though the “breast is best” mantra is preached during practically every pre-natal visit and in all the pregnancy books, I think it helps if unsure moms-to-be can see other people do it — and, in Alanis’s case, be proud of it.
Tell us: Would you share a breastfeeding selfie with your Facebook or Instagram friends?