All major health authorities recommend exclusive breastfeeding for about six months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, for one to two years or longer.
Breastfeeding benefits infants by giving them all the nutrients and immune protection they need for healthy development. A mother's milk contains a host of factors that protect infants from ear infections, diarrhea and vomiting, and other common childhood illnesses.
Breastfeeding protects against rare but serious conditions. The risk for severe respiratory infection and sudden infant death syndrome is reduced. Children who were breastfed continue to experience the benefits long after breastfeeding has ended by having lower risk for obesity, asthma, type 2 diabetes, leukemia, and other chronic conditions.
Breastfeeding also helps moms lower their risk for serious disease. Breastfeeding helps a mother lower her risk for conditions such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and cardiovascular disease. Many women feel that it helps them bond more closely with baby.
Breastfeeding allows all infants access to the same quality of nutrition and immune protection, regardless of social and economic resources.
Breastmilk is a natural, renewable food that acts as a complete source of nutrition for babies' first six months of life. There are no containers, no paper, and no fuel required for its manufacture or transport. In addition to reducing the carbon footprint, it's a hygienic, reliable, and secure food source.
Breastmilk protects babies from many environmental hazards. Other infant foods may be susceptible to manufacturing errors, environmental and bacterial contamination, and unsafe handling and misuse. During a natural or man-made emergency, breastfeeding helps with preparedness, as mother's milk may be the only safe available food.
While families can save money on the cost of infant formula and lower medical bills, employers can benefit from fewer health insurance claims, less employee time off to care for sick children, and higher productivity.
If breastfeeding rates increased so that 90% of U.S. families were able to breastfeed according to recommendations, the United States would save an additional $13 billion annually from reduced children’s health-related expenses, and more than 900 infant and child deaths could be prevented.i In addition, more than $18 billion a year in women’s health-related costs could be saved, and almost 5,000 cases of breast cancer, 54,000 cases of hypertension, and 14,000 heart attacks could be prevented annually among women who have given birth.viii The reality is that only a small minority of Texas babies are breastfed as long or exclusively as recommended by health authorities.ii
It is up to all of us to create a breastfeeding-friendly Texas.