Breastfeeding and Development (An Overview)

Posted on Mar 16, 2012

Guest Author: Diane “DC” Colburn, MS, CVRT

What if someone told you a perfect food existed?  This food would help maintain a healthy weight, improve oral health, increase strength, improve vision, reduce susceptibility to common colds and viruses, improve mental health, increase IQ, reduce the risk of heart disease, breast and ovarian cancer as well as increase bone density among many other benefits.  Would you eat the food? Would you believe that a mother can produce such a food for her baby? Breast milk is truly the world’s most perfect food. It has qualities that change as the baby grows!  What other food on earth has the ability to do that? Not one!

Let’s take a brief look at how breast milk enhances your child’s overall health and development.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding your child for a minimum of one year. The reason for this, as stated previously, breast milk is the perfect food. It quenches thirst, supplies antibodies and of course, adds to those gorgeous baby fat rolls that make baby cheeks so kissable! Breast milk is also loaded with essential fatty acids which are imperative to baby’s developing brain and vision.  Studies have shown that babies who breastfeed exclusively have higher visual acuity. Depth perception improves dramatically by breastfeeding.  When a child is first born, they can only see about 8 to 10 inches away. That’s the perfect distance for them to gaze at their mothers while eating on the breast in those critical first weeks of development outside of the uterus!  Also related to sensory development; breastfeeding an infant for a minimum of four (4) months, can help protect them from ear infections for up to three years.

It is truly amazing what the act of breastfeeding can do for your child. By breastfeeding the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) reduces exponentially: Statistics reveal that for every 87 deaths from SIDS, only 3 are breastfed! Breastfeeding reduces childhood obesity rates as well as occurrences of respiratory infections and digestive issues. Let’s not avoid the elephant in the room:  Formula is very expensive: it costs around $1500 to formula feed during the first year of an infant’s life! Breastfeeding is much more cost efficient; not to mention eco-friendly!

Currently, only 7.9% of United States babies are still exclusively breastfed by 6 months of age. Often, parents give up from sheer frustration, sleep deprivation and societal pressures from supportive sources such as nurses, doctors and families.  It is important to note that even if breastfeeding the first child was unsuccessful, it does not mean that it will fail for subsequent children. There are many resources available in the Greater Fort Myers region for helping to succeed with breastfeeding. Support is available from other breastfeeding mothers (i.e.: MOMS Club), the La Leche League International and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants. It is important to note, that the decision to breastfeed is a very personal one. The more education and support that is provided to the family and sought out by them as well, the more likely a successful breastfeeding relationship will evolve.

Diane “DC” Colburn, MS, CVRT

DC is an Early Intervention Specialist at the Visually Impaired Persons of Southwest Florida Inc. She works with children and families under the age of 5. She is the mother of a breastfed baby girl, age 8 months. You can reach her at dcolburn@vipcenter.org.

Local Resources:

La Leche League

http://www.lllflorida.com/

  • Fort Myers: Michelle (239) 498-3095 & Kathy (239)-851-1074
  • Cape Coral: Betsey (239) 481-8730
  • Lehigh: Maria (239) 823-8219
  • Naples: Laurie (239) 775-6067, Valerie (239) 353-2353 & Jennifer (239) 821-3927
  • Marco Island: Peggy (239) 642-4504

WIC Lee, Hendry and Glades: (239) 344-2000

Healthy Start Program coordinates services for pregnant women and babies: www.healthystartswfl.com

Childbirth Education Classes: Alice Pilon (239) 332-9632

Publications:

  • Murkoff, Heidi; What to Expect The First Year: Chapter 2 Facts Favoring Breastfeeding 2003
  • Li R, Zhao Z, Mokdad A, Barker L, Grummer-Strawn L. Prevalence of breastfeeding in the United States: the 2001 National Immunization Survey. Pediatrics 2003 May;111(5 Part 2):1198-201.
  • La Leche League International:  What Makes Human Milk Special? NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 23 No. 2, March-April 2006, pp. 82-83.