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  • BreastfeedingBreastfeeding can be a challenging undertaking for new mothers, but it can also be an incredibly rewarding experience that creates a special bond between you and your baby. Most importantly, breastfeeding may be the healthiest feeding option you can choose for your child.

    Sandy Gabriel, RNC, international board-certified lactation consultant at the Noreen Stonor Drexel Birthing Center at Newport Hospital offers essential information about the benefits of breastfeeding for babies and new mothers.

    Why may breastfeeding be the best option?

    Gabriel explains that breastfeeding is the "perfect nutrition" for your baby. Your breast milk is naturally designed to provide optimal nutrition. Everything a baby needs is within a mother's breast milk.

    She says, "Milk is species specific. Cow milk has all of the nutrients needed to provide for their offspring, as human milk does for theirs. Cow milk is not designed to provide for the needs of a human child. "

    Gabriel adds "Human milk changes to meet the needs of your child. As your baby grows, he or she has different nutritional needs. The human body naturally adjusts to meet those age-specific needs. No other nutritional option is able to offer this incredible benefit."

    What are the health benefits?

    There are many proven health benefits to breastfeeding your child, and additional research is discovering that there may be many more. Gabriel provides the following list of breastfeeding benefits.

    For Babies

    Breastfeeding can:

    • Create natural antibodies needed to fight illness
    • Increase a child's IQ as much as eight to ten points
    • Decrease the number of ear infections by sixty percent
    • Minimize the occurrence and severity of pneumonia, croup and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)
    • Significantly decrease the occurrence of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).
    • Make the incidence of diarrhea rare, as a mother's breast milk does not contain negative pathogens that can make your baby ill.

    For Mothers:

    Breastfeeding can:

    • Help create a stronger bond between you and your infant
    • Diminish the risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer
    • Lessen the development of osteoporosis

    New research is indicating that breastfeeding may also:

    • Reduce the chance of mothers developing type II diabetes in the future
    • Help to keep your baby slim and healthy as a child and adult
      • Childhood obesity and diabetes is on the rise. New research suggests that breastfeeding may help reduce the incidence of obesity, and in turn, diabetes. The reason for this is not yet known, but a theory is that when breastfeeding, the child decides when they are done eating, and this affects his or her eating habits in the future.

    When should a child no longer be breast fed?

    The American Academy of Pediatrics asserts that a new mother should breast feed their baby for six months. After six months, age appropriate food, in addition to continued breastfeeding, should be introduced until the child is at least a year old.

    Gabriel stresses that the time to stop breastfeeding is the decision of the mother. She explains that Western culture puts pressure on new mothers to stop breastfeeding their children when they are young, but from an "anthropological standpoint, considering other cultures, babies are breast fed anywhere from two to four years." Therefore, when you choose to stop breastfeeding your child is a personal decision.