World Breastfeeding Week is being celebrated from Aug. 1 through Aug. 7. This year’s theme is the 10 steps to successful breastfeeding. Although the event is geared toward making breastfeeding a success in the hospital, there is much that you can learn and do to support breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is recognized as the best form of nutrition for infants from up to six months of age.
Beyond six months, complementary foods can be added, but breastfeeding should still be continued. Breastfeeding continues to benefit both mother and baby beyond 12 months of age, and in many populations breastfeeding is continued to 3 years and beyond.
The United States has set national goals in hopes that 75 percent of newborns will have been breastfed at the time of hospital discharge and at least 50 percent of all newborns will breastfeed until 6-months of age.
Breast milk is completely natural and is ideal for nutrition in newborns. It contains products of the mother’s immune system, including proteins and special sugars (oligosaccharides), that help with digestion and can prevent common illnesses and infections — such as ear infections.
In newborn intensive care units across the country, breast milk is the preferred nutrition for even the smallest premature infants.
Breastfed infants are less likely to develop allergic reactions, such as eczema and asthma, have lower rates of obesity and diabetes as the infant grows, and be smarter.
Several studies link intelligence with breastfeeding, and certain compounds in breast milk have been shown to increase brain growth and visual acuity.
Apart from the satisfaction of the close bond with your baby, there are many maternal advantages to breastfeeding.
Producing breast milk uses 500 calories a day, and this caloric expenditure can be helpful in shedding any additional weight gained during pregnancy.
There is also evidence that breastfeeding helps prevent diseases such as cancer, arthritis and diabetes. In general, the longer you breastfeed, the more benefits you will obtain.
It is very important for all of us to strongly support breastfeeding in our hospitals and community. If you are a woman of child-bearing age, you should discuss the benefits of breastfeeding with your doctor.
New York has passed a breastfeeding “Bill of Rights” that details the rights of the mother to know her feeding options, have 24-hour access to her baby while in the hospital and breastfeed at any location. We all need to take these steps to support breastfeeding and healthier families.
To celebrate the international week, JAMS Jamaica Avenue Festival will be all day on Saturday, Aug. 7, with health and wellness demonstrations, live music, hundreds of multi-ethnic vendors and rides for kids. The Queens Hospital Center will have its own breastfeeding fair on Tuesday, Aug. 3.
Queens Hospital Center breastfeeding fair [82-68 164th Street in Jamaica, (718) 883-3000] Aug. 3, 10 am–2 pm.
JAMS Jamaica Avenue Festival (Jamaica Avenue from Parsons Boulevard to 169th Street in Jamaica, no phone) Aug. 7, 11 am–6 pm.
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