August is recognized as National Breastfeeding Month to help raise awareness about the importance of breastfeeding for both mother and infant. Due to its many benefits, The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life but many still question if it is right for them, especially due to concerns with COVID-19. Dr. Cameual Wright, the market chief medical officer at CareSource, a nonprofit health plan, offers tips and information about breastfeeding to mitigate some of these concerns and answers questions mothers may have.
Breastfeeding benefits both mother and baby
Breastfeeding can help form an incredible bond between mother and baby in addition to numerous health benefits, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As the infant grows, breast milk changes to best fit the baby’s nutritional needs and protects both mother and baby from certain illnesses and diseases. Mothers who choose to breastfeed have a reduced risk of ovarian and breast cancer, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. Additionally, infants who are breastfed have a lower risk of asthma, type 1 diabetes and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Breast milk also carries antibodies from the mother which helps offer immunity to babies before they are able to receive vaccinations and are still building a strong immune system.
Due to an infant’s changing routine, many find breastfeeding to be the most convenient feeding option due to the ability to breastfeed anytime, anywhere. Breastfeeding can help lift financial burdens associated with feeding as it offers a free, nutritional food source for babies.
COVID-19’s impact on breastfeeding
The COVID-19 pandemic has raised many questions for mothers and expecting mothers. If you test positive for COVID-19, talk to your physician about breastfeeding your baby. Mothers who choose to get vaccinated can pass COVID-19 antibodies to the infant through breast milk.
Ethnic and racial disparities of breastfeeding
Despite the CDC recommending breastfeeding, national rates remain low, especially among those in minority groups. There are many reasons for this, including historical trauma, access to care, provider bias and promotion of formula by manufacturers. Culturally appropriate education, increased breastfeeding support and diverse representation within health care should be encouraged and implemented in order to increase awareness of the importance of breastfeeding and help remove these barriers.
CareSource encourages mothers and expecting mothers to learn more about the benefits of breastfeeding and can provide access to case management workers who can connect them to resources in their community including lactation consultants. Lactation consultants are covered by CareSource and can provide mothers with prenatal education and postnatal assistance with breastfeeding. Mothers can also utilize CareSource24, our 24-hour Nurse Helpline, to ask questions and get advice. Visit www.caresource.com for more information about our services for mothers and expecting mothers.