Breastfeeding proven to help combat childhood obesity
March is National Nutrition Month. The Hamblen County Health Department encourages and supports breastfeeding as the foundation for a lifetime of good nutrition.
Breast milk is a perfect food that cannot be duplicated. It is more easily digested than any substitute, and it actually alters in composition to meet the changing nutritional needs of the growing infant.
Early breast milk, known as colostrum, is very rich in nutrients and antibodies that protect the baby against disease. Breast milk also aids the development of the infant’s own immune system. The amount of colostrum the baby receives at each feeding matches the amount his or her tiny stomach can hold. Colostrum changes into what is called mature milk.
By the third to fifth day after birth, this mature breast milk has just the right amount of fat, sugar, water, and protein to help your baby continue to grow. It provides the perfect mix of nutrients, hormones and proteins which cannot be duplicated. Since human milk is made specifically for the human infant, it is more easily digested.
The antibodies in human milk enhance the immune system and greatly reduce the risk of ear, gastrointestinal and respiratory infections. Breastfed babies also have a reduced risk of obesity, diabetes, leukemia, allergies and SIDS. The immune protection can last long after the baby stops nursing.
Adults who were breastfed as an infant have healthier blood pressures and cholesterol levels. They are also more likely to maintain a healthier weight and less likely to get Type II diabetes as an adult, according to the American Association of Dietetics.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity continues to be one of the top public health concerns in the United States, affecting more than one-third of the country’s adults and nearly 17 percent of adolescents and children.
Breastfeeding in one way to combat obesity.
The CDC reports that for every month a child is breastfed, the risk of overweight decreases by 4 percent, with a greater than 30 percent decrease at 9 months of age.
The La Leche League reports that breastfed infants have the ability to control the amount of milk they consume better than bottle-fed infants, who are sometimes forced to finish a bottle even when they show signs of being full by turning their heads away from the bottle.
This, unfortunately, teaches them to ignore their natural instincts to stop eating when they are full. Formula-fed infants also have an increased insulin response which leads to more fat deposition in the body, according to the American Dietetic Association.
Babies aren’t the only ones who benefit from breastfeeding.
Research reported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health indicate that if 90 percent of families breastfed exclusively for six months, nearly 1,000 infant deaths could be prevented.
Breastfed infants typically need fewer sick care visits, prescriptions and hospitalizations. Mutual of Omaha found that health care costs for newborns are three times lower for babies whose mothers participate in the company’s employee maternity and lactation program.
The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that medical care costs are lower for fully breastfed infants than those who were never breastfed, a fact that could save the nation an estimated $13 billion per year in medical care costs.
Breastfeeding is also better for the environment.
Breast milk is a natural, renewable resource that does not require packaging, shipping or disposal. It does not waste resources or create pollution.
The Hamblen County Health Department offers breastfeeding classes twice a week for mothers interested in breastfeeding: Tuesdays at 2 p.m. for English speaking patients and Wednesdays at 2 p.m. for Spanish speaking patients.
There is no cost for the classes and they are open to the public.
For more information, contact the Hamblen County Health Department at 423-586-6431.