Breastfeeding is baby’s perfect birthday present

Happy World Breastfeeding Week and National Breastfeeding Month. Want to know the best gift you can give in honor of the occasion? It’s easy, free and provides the best possible start in life: offer support and encouragement for breastfeeding moms. 

In addition to fewer illnesses and healthier immune systems (and savings of thousands of dollars per year), did you know exclusively breastfed babies have a higher chance of surviving their first year and a much lower risk of sleep-related death?

Breastfeeding isn’t simply a “lifestyle choice” — the decision to breastfeed your baby can literally mean the difference between life and death. No one should be made to feel badly about their choices, but everyone — and every baby — deserves the right to live the fullest and healthiest possible life.

What type of information helps families to be successful? Consider the following:

FACT: Breastmilk is designed exclusively for your baby’s individual needs and nothing else on Earth can possibly replicate it.

The composition evolves as your baby grows, providing nature’s most perfect food, at the ideal time for your child’s development. It’s packed with disease-fighting substances that prevent everything from chronic diseases like diabetes and obesity, to common colds and ear infections.

FACT: Breastfeeding doesn’t have an expiration date.

The World Health Organization recommends nothing but breastmilk the first six months of life, and continuing to nurse for at least two years or more, as long as mom and baby are both enjoying it. Breastmilk continues to provide health and immune benefits, and the nutrition baby needs, for as long as you nurse. In fact, the average age worldwide to wean is four years old — much longer than the U.S.

FACT: Making milk is a “supply and demand” process and moms tend to worry about their milk supply more than they need.

Don’t watch the clock; simply feed baby as often as they indicate signs of hunger. Fussiness and frequent feedings are not a sign of a low milk supply, so resist the urge to think or suggest that baby isn’t satisfied. Simply offer the breast again and try other comfort measures like rocking or swaddling. You cannot overfeed a breastfed infant, and you will make as much milk as baby demands — trust the process, and monitor baby’s weight gain. Nature won’t let you down!

FACT: Women with a support network and access to qualified lactation support are far more likely to have an enjoyable, rewarding breastfeeding experience.

Some women are the first in their families to breastfeed exclusively, and all moms deserve loving support. Encourage her commitment and provide help in other ways, such as bringing her a meal or lending a supportive ear. Moms (and babies) deserve it!

Breastfeeding may not be easy and it may not come naturally at first. But as a mother, her partner, or a member of her family and support network, encourage her to seek help early and as often as she needs it. Seek out a certified lactation consultant for help, or contact the MothersCare Line at (808) 951-6660 for information or resources. Support is available and your baby will thank you for it! Happy World Breastfeeding Week!

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Lisa Kimura is a mother of three and the executive director of Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition of Hawaii. She has a background in communications, advocacy work and early childhood development and studied at the Parent Coaching Institute to help empower parents with family support and education. She was appointed to the Governor’s Early Learning Advisory Board and is a member of the Women’s Legislative Coalition, Fetal Alcohol Task Force, Safe Sleep Hawaii, and is trained as a breastfeeding peer counselor and certified lactation educator. She can be reached at LisaK@hmhb-hawaii.org (808) 737-5805.

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