Breastfeeding prevents sickness

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 31, 2007

All good parents are concerned about their child’s health and safety.

But in a rural area like the Roanoke-Chowan region, how many times do we receive an accurate education on how best to keep our kids healthy?

Most everyone knows the general rules of thumb about hand washing and sanitizing things for older children, but what about babies? How can we help prevent them from getting sick?

In a word: breastfeeding. Now, before  you non-breastfeeding moms get disgusted and stop reading, hear me out.

Across the country, the national rate of mothers who attempt to breastfeed their newborns is just over 70 percent. That number declines rapidly as babies age.

However, in the Roanoke-Chowan region, the rate stands at about 25 percent. It is thought that age, race, socioeconomic status and the widespread use of free formula programs such as WIC in this area greatly contribute to the vast difference between the national breastfeeding rate and the one found here.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends six months of exclusive breastfeeding and continued nursing in addition to solid foods for the remainder of the first year of life.

Breastfeeding not only provides babies with immunizations which help keep them from getting sick, but it also offers a host of other benefits, both to the mother and child.

Infant formula is not a substitute for breast milk.  Despite what formula companies would have you believe, there is no man-made substance that can take the place of what nature intended babies to be fed with, their mother’s milk.

Do you see dogs, cats or cows running around drinking manufactured milk or milk from another animal? No, of course not. That’s because their mothers have the instinct to feed their young just as nature intended.

Some might use the excuse that it’s not possible for them to breastfeed because they have to return to work. That’s not an acceptable excuse.  I breastfed my son with no supplementation for 10 months and worked full-time as well.  Employers in many states are required to give a breastfeeding mother frequent breaks in order to pump breast milk for her child.

If you’re wondering if it was easy for me to breastfeed for 10 months and work full time too… honestly, at times, no, not at all. But it was well worth the sacrifices I had to make to provide my son with the best possible nutrition.

The price you’ll pay for a breast pump is a fraction of the cost you’d pay for formula in the first year. Some insurance companies and even Medicaid will cover most, if not all, of the cost of a pump.

Even if monetary savings aren’t your only concern, breastfeeding provides many other benefits. Breastfed infants are found to have higher IQs later in life. They also are at less of a risk of being overweight or of developing Type I diabetes.

Breastfeeding mothers generally lose the “baby weight” quicker and return to their pre-pregnancy size faster. They are at less risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer later in life. However, formula-fed baby girls are at an increased risk of developing breast cancer in later years.

To me, by far the best thing about breastfeeding was its convenience and the special bond it helped create between my son and me. No getting up in the middle of the night to prepare bottles in a sleep-filled stupor; instead the food was right here, ready to go the minute he needed it.

I think new moms owe it to their babies to at least give breastfeeding a try when their babies are born. If it doesn’t work out for you, don’t feel guilty, at least you have the satisfaction of knowing you tried to give your child the best possible start in life.


The online moms polled in last week’s column were from Babyfit, a site geared toward promoting healthy pregnancy, healthy moms and healthy babies. To visit Babyfit, go to

Jennipher Dickens is a Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. To write her with your questions, comments or suggestions for a future column, email or call (252) 332-7208.