We now know “breast is best” for your grandbaby. We have the scientific research to prove that it not only provides the highest nutrition for baby, while protecting him from infection, but also breast milk has many benefits for mom, too.
Today, breastfeeding is the norm, rather than the exception. In fact, more than 80% of American women start out breastfeeding, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But, that hasn’t always been the case.
“Back in the 1970s and ’80s, the science wasn’t there with regards to breastfeeding and use of human milk,” said Liz Maseth, a nurse and Internationally Board certified lactation consultant at Akron Children’s Hospital. “We did not have the resources available or lactation support. Either breastfeeding worked or it didn’t, and when it didn’t, moms quickly turned to the bottle to feed their babies.”
The number of mothers breastfeeding dramatically decreased in the early decades of the 20th century. Formula was seen as scientific and modern — not to mention convenient — so many women made the switch to formula feeding.
Soon, the bottle began to replace the breast. Even pediatric providers encouraged bottle-feeding because they didn’t know any better. By the early 1970s, it’s believed only about 22% of women breastfed their babies, according to the American Society for Nutrition.
“Increased knowledge among health care professionals surrounding the benefits of breastfeeding may have influenced infant feeding practices,” said Maseth. “Our understanding of the benefits of breastfeeding has grown by leaps and bounds in the last few decades.”
By 1975, luckily the numbers began to increase to 33% of women initiating breastfeeding. In 1980, it increased to 59% and in 1995, 60% of moms started out breastfeeding.
Today, women in childbearing years are much better informed and have many more resources at their fingertips than their moms or grandmothers at their age. Now, most providers are recommending breastfeeding to patients.
“As a grandmother, you may not have breastfed, but you should encourage your daughters to do it,” said Maseth. “Not only is it good for your grandbaby, but it’s also beneficial for mom.”
Breastfeeding is a natural, healthy way to ensure your grandbaby has the nutrition he needs to begin a lifetime of growth and development.
Breast milk provides babies with the most complete form of nutrition. The American Academy of Pediatrics believes breastfeeding is the best choice for babies and strongly recommends they be breastfed for at least the first 6-12 months of life.
Breastfeeding provides many benefits for your grandbaby, including:
- Breast milk is perfectly designed to provide the right amount of fat, sugar, water and protein needed for baby’s growth
- Most babies find breast milk easier to digest
- Breast milk contains living antibodies that help protect babies from infection
- Allergies and asthma occur less often in breastfed babies
- Human milk from the breast is always sterile
Breastfeeding also provides many benefits for your daughter, as well, including:
- The uterus returns to its original size sooner
- Bleeding after birth may be reduced
- Pregnancy weight is lost more quickly
- Breast milk is free and always available
- The skin-to-skin contact helps moms bond with baby
The fact is deciding not to breastfeed increases the health risks for both your grandbaby and your daughter.
Mothers who do not breastfeed have an increased risk of postpartum depression, breast or ovarian cancer, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis.
Full-term babies that are not breastfed have an increased risk of hospitalization for lower respiratory infections in the first year, diarrhea or vomiting, acute ear infections, asthma, eczema and diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), childhood obesity and some cancers.
“If you did not breastfeed yourself, that’s okay,” said Maseth. “The more knowledge you have as a grandmother under your belt, the better you can support your breastfeeding daughter.”
Go with your daughter to the pediatrician to gain more knowledge about breastfeeding, or read up on the benefits from credible websites, such as akronchildrens.org, kellymom.com or CDC.gov/breastfeeding.
You can also support her by encouraging mom to be comfortable to breastfeed in front of you. Don’t ask her to leave the room or do it in a private bedroom. If there’s a breastfeeding issue, don’t suggest a bottle as the solution. Instead, help her find lactation support or other resources to resolve it.
Lastly, you can support your daughter to breastfeed by allowing her time to do it, while you make dinner, clean up or even run errands.
“Breastfeeding support is essential to breastfeeding success,” said Maseth. “Supporting your daughter in breastfeeding is the best gift you can give your grandbaby.”
For more information about breastfeeding and lactation support, contact Liz Maseth at 330-543-4531.