By Betty Murray
August is National Breastfeeding Month, raising awareness about breastfeeding as the best form of nutrition for infants.
Why is breastfeeding so important for new moms? According to womenshealth.gov, breastfeeding not only protects the child, but it benefits the health of the mother, as well.
Breast milk, which begins as colostrum, is nutrient rich, helping the infant’s digestive system grow and the immune system fight off illness. Breast milk contains the perfect mix of fat, sugar, water, and protein to help a baby grow strong and healthy. It also contains cells, hormones, and antibodies protecting infants from illness.
Research shows that breast fed babies have lower risks of numerous health problems, including: asthma, childhood leukemia, childhood obesity, ear infections, eczema, diarrhea and vomiting, lower respiratory infections, type 2 diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and more.
For the mother, breastfeeding can lower her risk of type 2 diabetes, certain types of breast cancer, and ovarian cancer. In many cases, breastfeeding can also help a new mom lose weight and get back to her pre-pregnancy weight more quickly, although researchers are still looking at the exact connection between breastfeeding and weight loss.
The best way to lose that extra body weight is to work back into a regular exercise routine and eat a healthy, nutrient-rich diet. However, it’s also important to keep in mind that a breastfeeding mom should take in approximately 200-500 more calories than what is needed to maintain her weight, in order to ensure her baby is getting the calories he or she needs.
There has been some concern that exercise is not healthy for a lactating mom, but there is no evidence to suggest moderate exercise is dangerous or unhealthy for nursing moms. Drinking plenty of water before, during, and after exercise is important for breastfeeding moms (as it is for anyone who is exercising). As an extra tip, exercising after breastfeeding will be more comfortable as the breasts are less full immediately following a feeding.
Although breastfeeding is not an option for all new moms and infants, when possible, breastfeeding is the healthiest choice of nutrition for an infant, and even provides health benefits to mom, as well.
Betty Murray, CN, HHC, RYT is a Certified Nutritionist & Holistic Health Counselor, founder of the Dallas-based integrative medical center, Wellness and founder of the Metabolic Blueprint wellness program. Betty’s nutrition counseling practice specializes in metabolic and digestive disorders and weight loss resistance. A master of the biochemistry of the body, Betty teaches her clients how to utilize nutritional interventions to improve their health. Betty is a member of the Institute of Functional Medicine and the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.