A Closer Look At Your Health: Idaho moms do a good job of breastfeeding their babies

Idaho’s breastfeeding rate is one of the highest in the nation, and that’s something we like to celebrate during National Breastfeeding Awareness Month. Breast milk is best, if possible, and we’d like to keep encouraging new moms to consider breastfeeding their babies.

Why is breastfeeding so much better than anything else?

Breastfeeding is the natural, normal way to feed a baby, and it provides a multitude of health benefits for moms and babies. Breast milk provides nutrients that aren’t available any other way and boosts a baby’s immune system. It reduces the risk for a variety of infectious diseases, ear infections and diarrhea. It’s also great for the mom, who often loses pregnancy weight faster and has a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer. It’s good for the environment because there’s no packaging or factories needed to produce it. And – the best part – it’s ready whenever your baby is hungry! 

How long should a mother breastfeed?

All breastfeeding contributes to a baby’s overall health. But the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively until a baby is 6 months old, and then supplementing with solid foods until at least 12 months. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding until a child is 2 or older.

What if a woman can’t breastfeed her baby? What are the alternatives?

Lactation consultants are available in hospitals, private practices, and WIC to help women make informed decisions. When a mother’s own milk isn’t available, there are two main options: formula and donated human milk. For newborn babies with a medical need, donated breast milk in a milk bank is an option, but you should talk with your doctor about it.

Can you talk a little bit about WIC?

WIC is a federally funded nutrition program for Women, Infants and Children. WIC Peer Counseling is a program that connects new moms with a mom who has successfully breastfed her baby and who offers support outside of a clinic setting. You can find out more about that program from your local public health district.

So in terms of donated human milk, is it ever OK to share breast milk?

Donor milk banks screen and process human milk to ensure its safety and then distribute it to hospitals across Idaho and the nation. Casual sharing, when milk is given outside of a human milk bank to another woman’s baby, could transmit serious infections, including HIV. The risk of infection from a single bottle of another woman’s breast milk is very small, but health officials generally discourage it. If you are interested in donating milk, contact St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital in Boise.

Are there times when a mother should not breastfeed?                                   

There are times when it’s not advisable, such as when the mother is HIV-positive, using illicit drugs or is on specific medications, but for the most part, a mother’s milk offers the most complete form of nutrition for all infants. If you have questions, talk to your doctor.

(Note: A Closer Look At Your Health airs at 6:50 a.m. most Tuesdays on KBOI News Radio 670. This is an edited transcript of the segment from Aug. 23. Tune in on Aug. 30, when we’ll be talking about newborn health screenings.)

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