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Five reasons to breastfeed babies

José A. Álvarez

County of San Diego Communications Office

SAN DIEGO – Gwen Stefani did it. Eva Mendes breastfed too. Breastfeeding is not just for celebrities. All moms should breastfeed their babies until at least six months of age.

“Breastfeeding provides many health benefits to mothers and their babies,” said Dean Sidelinger, M.D., child health medical officer for the County Health and Human Services Agency.

In San Diego County, 96 percent of newborns are breastfed in the hospital. But by three months of age, only 30 percent of babies are exclusively breastfed.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies exclusively breastfeed for the first six months, followed by breastfeeding with other appropriate foods until 12 months of age, or as long as mother and baby want to continue.

The drop off in breastfeeding at three months of age is typically the result of moms having to return to work. However, California law supports working mothers who want to continue to provide breast milk for their babies. Workplace breastfeeding support includes providing time and private space to express breast milk because moms need to pump as often as every two to three hours.

“The longer you breastfeed, the better it is for you and your baby,” said Sidelinger.

August is National Breastfeeding Month and here are five reasons why it’s important for mothers to breastfeed.

1. It helps moms and babies bond

The closeness of the physical contact helps create a special bond between you and your baby. Breastfeeding releases oxytocin – the “bonding hormone” – and generates the same feeling as when you hug or kiss someone you love.

2. Human milk has many health benefits

Breast milk is easier to digest and has all the nutrients, calories and fluids your baby needs to be healthy. It can help protect your baby from many diseases and infections such as diarrhea, diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome, asthma, eczema, and some cancers.

3. It’s also good for moms’ health

Breastfeeding releases hormones in your body that promote mothering behaviors. It helps you burn more calories, which may help you lose weight, and it reduces the risk of ovarian and breast cancer.

4. It benefits babies’ brains

Studies have shown that babies who are breastfed during the first month had more gray matter by age seven, which led to higher IQ scores, better memory and motor skills.

5. You’ll have more cash and less stinky diapers

Breastfeeding could save you hundreds, even thousands, on formula, products and braces. The longer you breastfeed, the lower the likelihood your baby will suffer from misalignment of the teeth and dental arches. An added bonus is that breast milk is more easily digestible, which some moms and dads say means less stinky diapers.

“Breastfeeding is a low-cost strategy to achieve better health for the mom and baby,” said Wilma J. Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer. “We must continue to minimize the barriers to breastfeeding that women face, so we can support continued health of both the mother and child.”

For more information about breastfeeding, visit the Centers for Disease Control website, and the Prevention or the San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition's site,


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