Side note: For some reason, I have been confessing a lot on this blog lol.

I am a proud mother of a 4-year old. She is happy, healthy, silly, inquisitive and the most precious aspect of my world. I “loves” her dearly. But, what you may not know (especially since I am such a public health advocate *ahem*) is that I made the decision not to breastfeed during my pregnancy. Yes, I know. That surprised me, too. I didn’t waiver; I was very confident in my choice. I remember my OB/GYN asking me whether I wanted to breastfeed IMMEDIATELY after I pushed my little button out of my woman parts. She did a quick double take after I told her no. She asked why. I said matter of factly, “I just don’t want to.”  Yes, weird, I know. But, the truth of the matter is that I am a product of formula having never been breastfed myself. My mother was a single mother of 2 – I think that I turned out just fine. Plus, I was a working mother; I did not want the responsibility for feeding to be solely on me. But, as fate would have it – I retained an ungodly amount of water immediately after giving birth and within 2-days was back at my doctor’s office and on medications for water pills to help with retention. As a result, any milk I had dried up right along with it. *sigh* But, to my point, with advancements in medicine and science, are the benefits of breastfeeding that much different (over formula-feeding)? Well, this week, the CDC made a link that I had to sit up and listen to.

Breastfeeding helps protect against childhood obesity.

CDC recently released another issue of its Vital Signs publication. This month’s issues was on increasing hospital support for breastfeeding. I assume that these types of interventions would have helped me about 4 years ago when I had that convo with my OB/GYN lol. According to CDC:

Childhood obesity is an epidemic. In the US, 1 preschooler in 5 is at least overweight, and half of these are obese. Breastfeeding helps protect against childhood obesity. A baby’s risk of becoming an overweight child goes down with each month of breastfeeding. In the US, most babies start breastfeeding, but within the first week, half have already been given formula, and by 9 months, only 31% of babies are breastfeeding at all. Hospitals can either help or hinder mothers and babies as they begin to breastfeed. The Baby- Friendly Hospital Initiative describes Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding that have been shown to increase breastfeeding rates by providing support to mothers. Unfortunately, most US hospitals do not fully support breastfeeding; they should do more to make sure mothers can start and continue breastfeeding.

My disclaimer is that this new research is brilliant. What a great way to get breastfeeding support on the national agenda – especially when First Lady Michelle Obama just so happens to have a highly visible national initiative to prevent childhood obesity. *side eye*

According to the CDC, babies who are fed formula and stop breastfeeding early have higher risks of obesity, diabetes, respiratory and ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and tend to require more doctor visits, hospitalizations, and prescriptions. I support these findings, but my only issue is that it does not provide information on the contextual factors  for these outcomes, e.g. what are the income-level, education status, work/life factors, family dynamics of those affected?  The publication lacked explaining the “how” in linking breastfeeding benefits to healthier childhood health outcomes. I would assume that breastfeeding helps to boost a child’s natural immunity (by inheriting these traits from the mother). But, how does breastfeeding link to weight gain? That part of the process just isn’t clear. CDC also claims that breastfeeding for 9 months reduces a baby’s odds of becoming overweight by more than 30%.  This could mean that breastfeeding contributes to the childhood development process, e.g. healthy transition from newborn to infant to toddler. I’m intrigued and will definitely investigate further.

The point of the report is to provide evidence to support more breast-feeding friendly hospitals in the US. For women who plan to breastfeed, experiences and support during the first hours and days after birth influence their later ability to continue breastfeeding. Interesting data. To view the report and supporting scientific article, please see the links below.  And, as a once closeted cynic, I give kudos to all you breastfeeding moms; what a beautiful gift to your child. *love*

CDC Vital Signs: Hospital Support for Breastfeeding

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report

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