Breast-Feeding: Nature's Formula for Success
The Decision continued...
Among the greatest medical benefits to moms is a reduction in the risk of
getting at least two types of cancer -- pre-menopausal breast cancer and
ovarian cancer -- as well as reduced incidence of osteoporosis and hip
fractures. Researchers believe that prolonged production of estrogen and other
hormones while you breast-feed may trigger protective mechanisms.
"The longer you breast-feed and the more children you breast-feed, the
greater the benefits to the mother," says Dr. Gartner.
Acknowledging the benefits to mother and baby, the AAP recommends that
mothers nurse their babies for at least a year -- exclusively for the first six
months and then gradually introducing solids. In fact, experts encourage women
to go as long as they and their babies want, into the second and third
If you don't breast-feed for that long, though, combining breast-feeding
with formula is still preferable to formula alone, experts say. And something
is better than nothing.
"We know that the benefits of breast-feeding are dose-related, so a baby
that's breast-fed for three months has less protection than a baby that's
breast-fed for six months," says Best-Macia, who is also president of
Wellcare Inc., a group of lactation consultants. "But any amount of
breast-feeding is beneficial, even if it's two days in the hospital."
Of course, there is plenty that can stand in the way of a woman's decision
to nurse her baby.
Besides the difficulty women may have in learning proper technique, it takes
more time and commitment -- you can't just hand off your baby to anyone who can
hold a bottle. If you're going to work outside the home, you'll have to pump,
which requires all sorts of logistical considerations. And, breast-feeding may
make it difficult for some new mothers to lose those last few pounds.
Powers says she was stunned by the pervasive negativity toward
breast-feeding where she lives on the Upper East Side. "I think it's a very
selfish, vain attitude. They think, 'Give the kid a bottle. I don't want it to
interrupt my life. I want to be able to have my freedom. I won't do it in
public. I want my body back.' "