Providers - Breastfeeding
Whenever possible, breastfeeding is the best choice for all babies, but it's especially beneficial for American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) babies, mothers and their communities.
The Indian Health Service Head Start Program advocates breastfeeding for numerous reasons. For example, breastfeeding is considered to be an ideal first line of defense against the top two health challenges faced by AI/AN populations: obesity and type 2 diabetes. Feeding infants breast milk as the sole source of nutrition for the first two months of life is linked to a 60 percent reduction in type 2 diabetes in some AI/AN communities. Longer periods of breastfeeding can even further reduce the risks of both type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Here are some important benefits breastfeeding offers to babies:
- Mother's milk contains antibodies that protect babies from ear infections, cold viruses, flu and diarrhea.
- Mother's milk is easily digestible, unlike some types of formula.
- Mother's milk is perfect, balanced nutrition for babies, the way nature intended.
- Mother's milk helps premature babies gain strength and overcome the health setbacks linked to preterm delivery.
- Mother's milk protects babies from obesity and from developing type 2 diabetes later in life. The longer babies are breastfed, the less overweight they tend to be as children and adults. This means they're far less likely to develop type 2 diabetes and other life-threatening conditions linked to obesity.
- Breastfeeding helps babies to bond with their mothers and to feel warm and secure.
Here are some important benefits breastfeeding offers to mothers:
- Breastfeeding is convenient and free. There is no formula to buy and no bottles to prepare or clean.
- Breastfeeding can help mothers to lose pregnancy weight more quickly.
- Breastfeeding helps to shrink the uterus and reduce bleeding.
- Breastfeeding lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancers in mothers.
- Breastfeeding helps a mother bond with her baby.
What you can do in your center to support mothers and fathers with breastfeeding:
- Have information and materials about breastfeeding available in your centers and for home visits with families.
- Encourage fathers to participate and inform them of ways to get involved in the breastfeeding experience.
- Encourage new mothers to make and keep doctor appointments for themselves and their babies. Provide parents with information on medical clinics and WIC offices.
- Provide a supportive environment in which new parents can discuss the benefits and traditions of breastfeeding and share their feelings with other mothers and fathers.
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