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The Mountaineer Online

Medical experts outline benefits of breastfeeding

Mildred R. Lopez, RN, IBCLC

Army Public Health Nursing

World Breastfeeding Week 2010, which will be observed Aug. 1-7, commemorates the 20th anniversary of the Innocenti Declaration that called for implementation of “The Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding.” These steps provide a way to assist women achieve their breastfeeding goals and guide the training of health care workers in breastfeeding support.

Over the past two decades, more than 20,000 or 28 percent of maternity facilities worldwide have fully implemented the Ten Steps and have been certified by the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative. During this time, the number of women who are exclusively breastfeeding have increased significantly.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization and the New York Department of Health endorse the Breastfeeding Mother’s Bill of Rights. The AAP recognizes and recommends breast milk as the very best food for babies during their first year of life, and then for as long as mother and baby desire. The World Health Organization recommends continued breastfeeding up to age 2 or beyond.

Breast milk provides much more than just calories for babies. The protection from mother’s antibodies is passed to the baby through breast milk, helping the baby fight infections. Breast milk also contains the exact amount of minerals and enzymes needed for growth and development. Each woman’s milk is individually custom-made for her own baby; this makes breast milk not only the perfect food, but also the baby’s first immunization.

Health benefits of breast milk have been researched extensively, and even formula companies recognize that breast milk is best not only for the baby, but for the mother as well.

Research indicates that breastfed babies have fewer incidences of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), gastrointestinal infections, chronic constipation, ear infections, allergies, asthma and juvenile onset diabetes. Health benefits for the breastfeeding mother include reduced risk of ovarian cancer and premenopausal breast cancer. Mothers who breastfeed also have lower incidence of osteoporosis and obesity later in life.

Breastfeeding has social, financial and personal advantages for the family. It provides extra closeness that helps babies bond and develop trust. It is also a source of comfort to babies during illness or pain. It requires no preparation, making it less time consuming and easier than formula. Breast milk is perfectly formulated to give every baby the best start in life. Doctors agree that for most women, breastfeeding is the safest and most healthy choice.

It is a woman’s right to be informed about benefits of breastfeeding and to have her health care provider and maternal health care facility encourage and support breastfeeding. Women have the right to make their own choice about breastfeeding. Whether women choose to breastfeed or not, they have the following basic rights endorsed by AAP, WHO and NYSDH. Each maternal health care provider shall give a copy of the Breastfeeding Mothers' Bill of Rights to each patient at the medically appropriate time.


Breastfeeding Mothers' Bill of Rights

* You have the right to complete information about benefits of breastfeeding for yourself and your baby. This will help you make an informed choice on how to feed your baby.

* You have the right to receive information that is free of commercial interests and includes:

- how breastfeeding benefits you and your baby nutritionally, medically and emotionally;

- how to prepare yourself for breastfeeding;

- how to understand some problems you may face and how to solve them.


In the health care facility

* You have the right to have your baby stay with you right after birth, whether you deliver vaginally or by cesarean section. You have the right to begin breastfeeding within one hour after birth.

* You have the right to have someone trained to help you in breastfeeding give you information and help you when you need it.

* You have the right to have your baby not receive any bottle feeding or pacifiers.

* You have the right to know about and refuse any drugs that may dry up your milk.

* You have the right to have your baby in your room with you 24 hours a day.

* You have the right to breastfeed your baby at any time, day or night.

* You have the right to know if your doctor or your baby's pediatrician is advising against breastfeeding before any feeding decisions are made.

* You have the right to have a sign on your baby's crib clearly stating that your baby is breastfeeding and that no bottle feeding of any type is to be offered.

* You have the right to receive full information about how you are doing with breastfeeding and get help on how to improve.

* You have the right to breastfeed your baby in the neonatal intensive care unit. If nursing is not possible, every attempt will be made to have your baby receive your pumped or expressed milk.

* If you, or your baby, are re-hospitalized in a maternal care facility after the initial delivery stay, the hospital will make every effort to continue to support breastfeeding, to provide hospital grade electric pumps and rooming in facilities.

* You have the right to have help from someone specially trained in breastfeeding support and expressing breast milk if your baby has special needs.

* You have the right to have a family member or friend receive breastfeeding information from a staff member if you request it.


When you leave the health care facility

* You have the right to printed breastfeeding information free of commercial material.

* You have the right, unless you request otherwise, to be discharged from the facility without discharge packs containing infant formula or formula coupons unless ordered by your baby's health care provider.

* You have the right to get information about breastfeeding resources in your community, including information on availability of breastfeeding consultants, support groups and breast pumps.

* You have the right to have the facility give you information to help choose a medical provider for your baby and understand the importance of a follow-up appointment.

* You have the right to receive information about safely collecting and storing your breast milk.

* You have the right to breastfeed your baby in any location, public or private, where you are otherwise authorized to be. Complaints can be directed to the New York State Division of Human Rights.


For more information on breastfeeding or for breastfeeding support, visit the NYSDH at, ask your health care provider or contact Army Public Health Nursing at 772-6404.

The Mountaineer



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