The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has released an updated opinion on the importance of breastfeeding, recommending exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, with continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced through the infant’s first year of life, or longer as mutually desired by the woman and her infant. This recommendation is consistent with those of other medical and nursing organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses. The ACOG opinion also emphasizes the role that women’s healthcare providers should play in supporting breastfeeding and lactation as part of prenatal and post partum care.
These recommendations reinforce the goals of Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi’s Maternity Quality Model. The Maternity Quality Model supports best practice guidelines for women’s health and includes the 39 Weeks Initiative developed to eliminate elective, early-term deliveries and the Baby-Friendly Hospital initiative that encourages all Network Delivering Hospitals to earn the Baby-Friendly Hospital designation. The designation signifies that a facility provides the highest level of family-centered care, including encouraging breastfeeding.
Evidence supports breastfeeding as the optimal way to nourish an infant, providing perfect nutrients, antibodies and disease-protecting properties that can only be found in mother’s milk. In addition to the benefits for baby, breastfeeding provides a number of benefits to the mother’s health.
Health benefits for baby
- Breast milk provides the perfect mix of vitamins, protein, and fat that baby needs to grow.
- Colostrum, milk produced during the first few days after childbirth, contains antibodies and helps the newborn’s digestive system grow and function.
- These antibodies help baby’s immune system fight viruses and bacteria.
- Breast milk is easier to digest than formula.
- Breastfeeding decreases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
- If baby is born preterm, breast milk can help reduce the risk of many of the short-term and long-term health problems that preterm babies face.
- Mother’s body knows baby’s nutrition needs, and the volume of milk and nutritional content perfectly suits those needs.
Health benefits for mother
- During breastfeeding, the hormone oxytocin is released. Oxytocin causes the uterus to contract and return to its normal size more quickly.
- Breastfeeding may help with postpartum weight loss.
- Women who breastfeed have lower rates of breast cancer and ovarian cancer than women who do not breastfeed. It also has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Breastfeeding saves time and money.
Learn more about ACOG’s recommendations for breastfeeding as well as Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi’s ongoing efforts to support mothers and babies in having a healthy start to life with our 39 Weeks Initiative and our Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative . Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi also provides a double electric or manual breast pump for eligible covered members as part of their benefit plan. Learn more about this benefit.