It happened for the first time two weeks ago. My 10-month-old baby got sick.
Up until then, she has had no sniffles. No runny noses. No fevers. No ear infections or aches. No doctor's visits. Not-a-one.
At ten months, she's eating a wonderfully colorful diet of fruits, vegetables, organic meats, and dairy products; she also still nurses. Though I am grateful every day for the many merits of breastfeeding, never have I been more grateful than when she recently caught that small stomach bug. As I breastfed her, it struck me again how powerful breastfeeding is for the prevention of illnesses - here in the USA and around the world.
Save the Children recently released a new breastfeeding report, entitled Superfood for Babies. Among other things, the findings show that 830,000 infant deaths could be avoided worldwide if babies were breastfed in the first hour after birth. Colostrum - or first milk - is a miracle agent in its own right, providing "a powerful shot of antibodies that can stave off deadly disease."
In addition, infants who are not breastfed are 15 times more likely to die from pneumonia and 11 times more likely to die of diarrhea than those exclusively breastfed for the first six months.
For optimal health benefits, Save the Children and the World Health Organization continue to urge mothers to breastfeed their babies, along with complementary foods, up to two years of age and beyond.
Bottom line is that breastfeeding saves lives and improves the quality of life of children. To quote the report, "Breastfeeding is the closest thing there is to a ‘silver bullet’ in the fight against malnutrition and newborn deaths."
As with all public health issues, the solution begins with each one of us. I love what Carolyn Miles, President and CEO of Save the Children, had to say this morning in the Huffington Post. The question is NOT, "Are you mom enough?" The question is, "Are we supporting moms enough?"
Here are 6 things you can do to promote a breastfeeding-friendly culture in your neighborhood and around the world:
(1) Make every effort to nurse your baby, especially within the first hour after birth.
(2) Nurse your baby in public - with or without a cover.
(3) Bring a meal to a new mom. Extend a listening ear. Share your own breastfeeding trials and triumphs, gently and graciously.
(4) Give breastfeeding-friendly gifts (nursing gown, lanolin cream, nursing pads, pro-breastfeeding books, etc).
(5) Write complimentary letters to companies and medical facilities who provide amenities and support to nursing moms. Also write letters to companies that fall short, providing positive feedback and proposing straightforward solutions.
(6) Above all, be kind. Kindness is the true impetus of change.