This edition of Hood Health 101 addresses the importance and benefits of breastfeeding during pregnancy

Breast is best”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least 12 months with breast milk being the only food for the first 6 months. That means no steak and potatoes, no cereal in the bottle at night to make the child stay in bed longer, no formula, no nothing except breast milk. The condition of our health in urban communities is plagued with obesity, diabetes, cancers, high blood pressure and more. Black and Brown babies are dying at much higher rates than White babies and guess what? They are also breastfeeding at much lower rates than Whites. Breastfeeding at birth can set the stage for a healthier infancy, childhood and life in later years.

Why does this happen?
*Young women aren’t educated early in life about breastfeeding and many don’t learn anything about breastmilk until they’re already pregnant.
*Many women have never seen anyone breastfeed so it may seem strange.
*Many fathers discourage breastfeeding because they think it will take away from their fun.
*Many grandmothers encourage formula because they think it’s better than breastmilk since that’s what they used for their children.
*Many women don’t think they can breastfeed when they go back to school or work.
*Some women think they shouldn’t breastfeed because of their health or lifestyle.
*Some women think they can’t produce enough milk when they may just need more help and support.
*Some women may just not want to sacrifice the time and energy.
*Many women have allowed people’s “horror stories” about breastfeeding to discourage them.

Breastfed Babies…
They are healthier and have lower incidences of colds, viruses, pneumonia, gastrointestinal infections, ear infections, tooth decay and more:
*Are less likely to develop type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, and even some childhood cancers.
*Are 50% less likely to die from SIDS
*Are less likely to become obese.
*Have higher I.Q.’s than formula fed babies according to some studies.

Some Breastfeeding Benefits for Mother
A mother’s bones become stronger and their risk of osteoporosis after menopause is decreased.
Mothers who breastfeed lose weight faster than if they had not. Breastfeeding literally burns calories.

Breastfeeding helps mothers bond with their baby, helps their uterus contract to prevent postpartum hemorrhage and also to return to its pre-pregnancy size quicker than if they did not breastfeed.That’s like three benefits in one. It reduces a mother’s risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancers. Breastfeeding can sometimes work as a birth control method. Don’t depend on that though.

Did I mention how much money you could save by breastfeeding?
Oh, and did you realize that you don’t even have to warm up any bottles in the middle of the night? Breastmilk is made at two convenient breast locations, open 24 hours and its better than Burger King for babies because they can have it their way since breastmilk changes its consistency and make up to match your babies needs. Amazing huhh? No formula could ever do that.

When is breastfeeding not recommended?
Breastfeeding is not recommended if you have HIV or if your baby has classic galactosemia (GALT). Other than that, go ahead. Yes, babies will need to be fed in public. Grab a blanket and cover up if you feel uncomfortable but your child shouldn’t be deprived because other people don’t understand.

Fathers, How Can You Help?
Listen…I know this is a big sacrifice but I have to tell you, it’s worth it. Think about how your baby can receive one of life’s most precious gifts of health from his mother and all you have to do is support that. You may make fewer trips to the doctor’s office, save more money from not having to buy formula. You won’t even have to get up in the middle of the night to give the baby a bottle unless you want to. Support her. Help look for breastfeeding organizations, midwives, doulas, lactation consultants, new mothers groups that can help to support her. Don’t let her get discouraged and start to tell herself that she can’t do it.

Some Myths
1. Breastfeeding hurts: Proper latches won’t hurt. It may take weeks to get it right. Keep trying. Get help from a lactation consultant, midwife or doula.

2. I’m not producing enough milk: The more you feed the baby, the more they make. If the baby is peeing, pooping, and gaining weight, it’s working. Avoid pacifiers and bottles and don’t depend on the pump.

3. My boobs are too tiny: Breast size has nothing to do with it. Your breasts prepare when pregnancy begins.

4. My breast will sag: Girl Please. Pregnancy, age, and gravity make your breast sag. Not breastfeeding.

SciHonor Devotion, CD, CPD, CCCE, CMA, CWSP is a contributing writer to the Hood Health Handbook set. She is a Labor Doula, Postpartum Doula, Childbirth Educator, Homebirth Midwife Assistant and Womb Sauna Practitioner who serves women and girls in her community through workshop, ceremony and rites of passage. She is also Co-Owner of Queen’s Quisine: Vegetarian and Vegan Catering Company and can be contacted at www.facebook.com/EarthDoulas / [email protected] / www.facebook.com/QueensQuisine