17 Aug World Breastfeeding Month
Breastfeeding is known to foster a deep connection between a mother and a baby: as oxytocin is released, it promotes feelings of love, calm, and bonding. In an effort to raise awareness on issues related to breastfeeding, August has been designated as World Breastfeeding Month, and this year’s theme is “Making a difference for working parents”. But the main reason why the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) chose August specifically is because it wanted to commemorate the 1990 Innocenti Declaration, an initiative by the WHO and UNICEF which aims to encourage breastfeeding and spread awareness on how mother’s milk enhances the health and strengthens the immune system of all newborns.
On the topic of 2023’s theme, it’s important to highlight that workplace challenges remain the most common reason for women to never breastfeed or stop breastfeeding earlier than recommended (WHO recommends that babies get only breast milk for the first 6 months of life). It then comes without saying that women need adequate time and support to be able to breastfeed. Not surprisingly, in cases where the maternity leave lasts for less than 4 months, women report a shorter breastfeeding duration. But this does not have to be the case: if their workplace is breastfeeding-friendly (e.g., it includes a lactation and/or pumping room), women won’t be forced to start feeding their babies with formula while still producing breast milk. With a supporting work environment and enough awareness, women will feel more empowered and, together with their newborns, they will reap the benefits of breastfeeding.
Speaking of the pros of breastfeeding, did you know that it benefits both babies and moms? By now, you surely know that breast milk does not only represent the best source of nutrition for babies, but it also adapts to their changing needs as they grow. In addition to that, breast milk offers vital protection to babies: it has been proved that breastfed babies are less likely to develop asthma, obesity, type 1 diabetes, ear infections, and catching the stomach flu. Through her breast milk, a mother also has the ability to share essential antibodies with her baby, which end up boosting their immune system. Not only that, but breastfeeding offers mothers the freedom to feed their babies anytime, anywhere, without the need for formula or bottles, making travel easier and providing their babies with familiar comfort even when their routine is disrupted. So how does breastfeeding benefit the mothers, you might ask. Well, it does so by reducing their risk of breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and high blood pressure. And in the earlier stages, it helps women who have just given birth recover faster: they experience less blood loss, and their uterus goes back to its normal size and position in the abdominal cavity faster.
Despite the numerous benefits, some women may hesitate to breastfeed due to concerns about their milk production or because it can sometimes be inconvenient. The truth is, with proper information and support, most women can breastfeed successfully. Especially if you’re a first-time mom, it’s important to start educating yourself even before you give birth and seek guidance from experienced professionals if you have any doubts.
And before we end, we’d like to debunk a very popular myth: many women are led to believe that conceiving their baby through IVF limits their future ability to breastfeed. This is not true! Multiple studies have confirmed that, regardless of how you conceive, whether it was through IUI, IVF with your own eggs, or IVF with donated eggs, your body’s biological response to pregnancy remains the same. Lactation is a hormonal response that occurs during and after pregnancy, triggering milk production. So, please remember that the way your body responds to breastfeeding, whether it feels easy or challenging, has nothing to do with how you became pregnant.
We would also like to remind you that formula feeding is also a healthy choice for babies. If you use formula, your baby will get the best possible alternative to breast milk, so you shouldn’t feel guilty if, for whatever reason, you decide not to breastfeed. Remember that, at the end of the day, you are free to decide what feels best for you and your baby. And let’s not forget that formula feeding has its own benefits too: it’s convenient, your partner can help you out with nighttime feedings and thus share a bonding experience with your newborn, and you don’t have to worry so much about what you eat or drink.
At Reproclinic, we always prioritize the well-being of our patients and their families. Whether you’re currently exploring fertility treatment options, or just found out that you’re pregnant, we hope that you learned something new from this article, and please feel free to reach out to us if you have any additional questions.