There are many misconceptions and misunderstandings about breastfeeding, from how to do it properly, to how long it should be done. Dr. Fabrizio Mancini, a leading health and wellness expert, discussed with RadioMD.com hosts Andrea Donsky and Lisa Davis why breastfeeding is so important and how there are no hard lines when it comes to the hows and how longs. As Dr. Mancini notes, "This is one of the most important gifts you can give your child."
For many years infant formula was touted as superior to mother's own milk, however much research has shown that there are incredibly significant benefits to both baby and mother from breastfeeding. Breastfed babies are considerably less likely to get asthma, allergies, colic and ear infections. The baby's improved health will in turn impact mom's wellbeing with fewer visits to the doctor and less time worrying over a distressed child. In addition, breastfeeding uses considerable calories, meaning breastfeeding moms will lose pregnancy weight faster. Women who breastfed their children also show a reduced risk of osteoporosis and breast and ovarian cancers later in life.Read more about breast cancer
According to Dr. Mancini, breast milk is "one of the most balanced meals you can give a child." It is easy for baby's underdeveloped digestive tract to digest, and breastfeeding creates considerable bonds between mother and baby. Pumping breast milk can ensure baby has this nutritious meal when mother may not be present, and as Dr. Mancini suggests, can help a father feel more connected, by providing him the opportunity to nurture the child with a nutritious meal and some close contact. Studies have shown that oxytocin is released during breastfeeding, a hormone that not only helps reduce the uterus back to its normal size, but perhaps more significantly, "induces happiness more than anything out there."
Some women will experience difficulty producing breast milk. What options do these mothers have? Dr. Mancini indicates that studies show exercise, which boosts circulation, can help produce milk. Ensuring that mother is taking in adequate vitamins, minerals and enzymes can also help prepare the body to produce milk. A diet high in fruits and vegetables can help ensure a woman is filling her body with all the nutrients she needs to pass on to baby. Even among those who choose not to eat healthy or organic, breast milk is still preferable over infant formula, which is not only highly processed, but also expensive and time consuming to prepare.
Of note for those who are following a healthy lifestyle but are unable to produce milk, organic infant formulas are available that surpass traditional formulas in quality.
What is the minimum amount of time a woman should breast feed? The maximum time? Importantly, Dr. Manicini notes, "the reality is, it depends on what the body produces." What is important is that a woman try for as long as possible to provide her growing child with this valuable meal. Although it can be difficult for some women, as much effort as possible should be put into following the recommendations to help produce milk.
In terms of how long, some cultures abide by the understanding that if the body is producing it, why not use it? Upward of three years is common among some populations, but in reality, any length of time has its value. Interestingly, studies have shown that while there is a link between a reduced risk of cancer among women who breastfed, there is no specific link associated with months or years – any length of time spent breastfeeding reduces a woman's risk for breast and ovarian cancers.
Lactation consultants can help guide a woman through the breastfeeding process, and can be a valuable tool for helping a woman understand the workings of her body. With tremendous benefits to both mother and child, breastfeeding is a valuable tool for improving both mother and baby's wellbeing. Read more about the health benefits of breastfeeding
Additionally, there is really no better time for a mother to embark on a healthier diet and lifestyle to be sure that she not only has all the nutrients she needs to pass on to baby, but to prepare her own body for the hard work that comes along with new motherhood. Although it can be a challenge for some mothers to produce milk, the most important thing is to listen to the body and to make the effort for as long as possible. It is a valuable gift from mother to child.
For more information about Dr. Fabrizio Mancini, visit http://drfabmancini.com.
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