5 great things about breastfeeding
Breastfeeding isn’t just good for babies. According to Sarah Newport, BSN, RNC, IBCLC, it benefits everyone — from tiny newborns to the whole planet.
1. Nothing tops it for protection.
Human milk contains something no formula can offer: antibodies that protect babies from disease and infection.
“For preemies in a hospital, that protection is of utmost importance,” Newport says.
When a baby is born prematurely, mom’s body knows and automatically produces the exact blend of nutrients and antibodies her infant needs. Preemies who receive their mothers’ milk typically don’t have to stay in the hospital as long. Their risk of readmission is lower too.
For all babies, breast milk offers protection against many health problems, including:
- Ear infections
- Respiratory illnesses
“Breastfeeding also lowers the risk for childhood obesity and diabetes,” Newport says.
2. Toddlers benefit, too!
“Once babies start walking, many people see them as little grown-ups who shouldn’t be breastfeeding,” Newport says. "But their immune systems are still developing. Toddlers who breastfeed get ongoing immune support."
3. The girls are safer.
“Breastfeeding reduces a woman’s risk for female cancers, particularly breast cancer,” Newport says.
4. It’s good for business.
According to Newport, “Breastfed babies don’t get sick as often, so their parents don’t miss as much work.”
Employer health care costs may come in lower, too.
5. It’s earth friendly.
Producing and shipping baby formula consumes natural resources, and formula packaging goes into landfills. That means breastfeeding is easier on this planet we share.
To help ensure success for every mother who chooses to breastfeed, MultiCare’s lactation consultants:
- Consult with every new mom who is breastfeeding
- Coach mothers of preemies through weeks of pumping breast milk until their babies can nurse
- Offer outpatient support to make sure breastfeeding at home is going well
It takes a village: Can you share with another mother’s child?
For babies born early or who are ill, donated human milk can be lifesaving. And now, lactating moms can help save lives by donating surplus breast milk to the Mothers' Milk Depot at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital.
The hospital ships all donated milk to the Mothers’ Milk Bank, a program of the Rocky Mountain Children’s Health Foundation in Denver, to be screened and pasteurized. Then it’s frozen and shipped to hospitals nationwide.
Some returns to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Tacoma General, which admits more than 600 sick newborns a year.
Preemies consume tiny amounts of milk — typically starting with just 1 milliliter at a time, or about a fifth of a teaspoon! So a single donation could help many babies.
Read more about how you can share the gift of life and health. Or call the Tacoma General NICU lactation desk at 253-403-5525.
Milk donors pay nothing for blood work and shipments. But what they share is priceless.
This story was originally published in November 2014 and updated in August 2017.