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Garmon: Breastfeeding helps level the playing field for babies

Ann Garmon, coordinator of the Women, Infants and Children program at the McHenry County Department of Health
Ann Garmon, coordinator of the Women, Infants and Children program at the McHenry County Department of Health

Did you know that breastfeeding helps level the playing field for babies? By providing a simple, economical start in life, breastfeeding is a recognized way of improving health, well-being and survival for women and children.

Yet even armed with this knowledge, women face breastfeeding barriers. Lack of support and the necessity of returning to work or school sometimes makes breastfeeding difficult.

To combat this, Gov. Bruce Rauner has declared August 2018 as Breastfeeding Promotion Month in Illinois, reminding us that protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding is vital. Breastfeeding helps prevent malnutrition and ensures food security for infants.

According to the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, there is strong evidence that breastfeeding has many effects on both the mother’s and child’s health.

For mothers, returning to normal weight, reducing the risk of breast and ovarian cancers, lowering the risk of high blood pressure and helping with birth spacing are positive effects. Helping to combat diseases such as diabetes, certain cancers, infections and decreasing the risk of obesity are significant benefits for babies. WABA estimates that breastfeeding reduces the risk of being overweight by about 10 percent compared to formula feeding.

In addition to contributing to lifelong good health and well-being, breastfeeding ensures access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food during the critical first 1,000 days of life – when the foundation of human development is being built.

Shorter breastfeeding durations were associated with a 2.6-point loss in IQ scores for children. Breastfeeding helps ensure learning ability.

Artificial feeding is costly, with access to safe water and refrigeration not always available. Manufacturing baby formulas uses resources and creates waste. More than 4,000 liters of water, or 95 full bathtubs, are needed to produce only 2.2 pounds of infant formula powder. Breast milk is a universally available food that fuels brain development.

Millions of young children thrive and are given a fair start through breastfeeding. Please join us in our efforts to raise awareness of the importance of breastfeeding and help support mothers being able to breastfeed.

Information about the benefits of breastfeeding can be found at www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding. For information about how Women, Infants and Children programs support breastfeeding and help families achieve better health, visit www.mcdh.info or call WIC at 815-334-4505 or 815-334-1498.

• Ann Garmon is the coordinator of the Women, Infants and Children program at the McHenry County Department of Health.

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