More than 400 people gathered in Des Moines last week for the annual Iowa Breastfeeding Conference. This was the largest attendance in the event’s 25-year history. Breastfeeding experts, supporters and public health advocates joined to discuss ways to increase breastfeeding rates and increase the number of mothers who breastfeed longer.
Nationally, the percentage of infants to begin breastfeeding at birth is high at 77 percent. According to the Iowa Newborn Metabolic Screening Profile, Iowa exceeded the national rate in 2013 at 77.69 percent. Iowa’s rate of breastfeeding at birth has risen steadily each year. The Iowa Department of Public Health Bureau of Nutrition and Health Promotion provides technical assistance to health care professionals and local breastfeeding taskforces in their efforts to support breastfeeding mothers and infants.
Breastfeeding has many benefits for mothers and babies including:
- Reducing the risk of ear and respiratory infections, diarrhea, and stomach problems for infants;
- Lowering the risk of asthma, diabetes, leukemia and childhood obesity for infants;
- Decreasing the risk of breast and ovarian cancer and diabetes for mothers;
- Reducing the incidence of postpartum depression;
- Allowing the mother’s uterus to recover from pregnancy and childbirth more quickly.
In addition to health benefits, breastfeeding helps mom and baby bond.
Newborns have a strong sense of smell and know the unique scent of their mother’s breast milk. That is why babies will turn his or her head to mom when he or she is hungry.
Babies are born extremely nearsighted, which means they can only see things about 8 to 15 inches away. That also happens to be the distance between the mother’s face and her baby’s face when breastfeeding. So when your baby locks eyes with their mother, it’s a true bonding moment.
For more information on breastfeeding rates in Iowa and how IDPH offers breastfeeding promotion and support, visit www.idph.state.ia.us/wic/Breastfeeding.aspx. To see more on the benefits of breastfeeding, go to www.womenshealth.gov/itsonlynatural/addressing-myths/incredible-facts-about-babies-breast-milk.html.