August is National Breastfeeding Month so to mark it we gathered some information to answer your frequently asked questions or thoughts on breastfeeding. Let’s begin with breastfeeding benefits.

Breastfeeding benefits

  • Improving baby’s health: breastfeeding helps to reduce infections and ensure growth and development.
  • Building bonds: breastfeeding enables bonding for mothers and babies.
  • A speedy recovery: for moms, breastfeeding provides comfort and recovery from childbirth. It’s been linked to:
    • Reduced postpartum bleeding
    • Reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer later in life
    • Possibly lowered risk of diabetes and other diseases
  • Easy transportation: there’s no need to carry bottles and other supplies when you breastfeed.

Children’s National Health System’s Ivor Horn, MD, MPH, also adds that, “as a mom who breastfed, I think about all the money I saved from not buying formula.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for six months exclusively; then up to a year if possible.

“What I tell moms is breast is best, but it depends on what works best for a mom and family,” says Dr. Horn. “It has to be what’s best for each family. Not all moms can breastfeed, and a mom shouldn’t be made to feel guilty if she can’t.”

Breastfeeding in public

Many moms feel embarrassed if they do breastfeed, especially in public. Breastfeeding, though natural and legal wherever mom is, has been the source of scrutiny and many are behind movements to make it more acceptable in today’s culture.

“Moms need to be comfortable to feed their babies, and we as a society need to help change the norm so that moms are comfortable,” Dr. Horn said.

One person who is supporting breastfeeding mothers is Children’s National pediatrician Sahira Long, MD. Dr. Long runs the Children’s National East of the River Lactation Support Center and is president of the DC Breastfeeding Coalition.

The coalition works to address the barriers to breastfeeding and aims to educate women about their rights to breastfeed through information and support, helping them make informed decisions about breastfeeding.

In an interview with NPR, Dr. Long said that many women feel embarrassed to breastfeed in public, even at her health center where breastfeeding is encouraged.

“[Women will] give bottles just because they don’t want people looking at them funny, or they don’t want, you know, people to say anything to them,” Dr. Long said. “When mothers nurse discreetly, you actually see less breast than you see on Victoria’s Secret commercials.”

Dr. Horn stresses that these extreme reactions to breastfeeding can be harmful and it’s counterproductive to be judgmental. She said that we should be respectful of moms who are breastfeeding and those who are not. No matter the choice, we should support mothers.

The AAP has several recommendations on how we can support breastfeeding mothers, whether we are regular citizens or clinicians.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Ivor Horn, MD, MPH, was a general pediatrician at Children's National. She discusses teen issues through her own life experience with her daughter and as a general pediatrician.
Sahira Long Sahira Long, MD, FAAP, is a board-certified pediatrician and lactation consultant at Children’s National. She is an Assistant Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at George Washington University School of Medicine and serves as the Medical Director for two Children’s Health Centers in medically underserved Southeast Washington, DC, and for the Children’s National East of the River Lactation Support Center.

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