August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, and Mothers Across the Nation are Encouraged to Better Understand the Long-Lasting Health Benefits

of Breastfeeding to Themselves and Their Newborns.

If you are an expectant mother, or a mother who’s recently given birth, you may be wondering if breastfeeding is right for you and your baby?

With August being National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, the answer in almost all cases is an unequivocal yes!

“Breastfeeding your child is by far the best option and should always be your first choice,” said Dr. Liz Diaz-Querol with Kaiser Permanente Southern California. “Not only does it help your baby grow up healthy, but breastfeeding also lowers your child’s risk for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and may also help protect your child from other health problems such as infections, obesity and diabetes.”

The benefits don’t stop there.

“Breastfeeding has benefits for the mother, too,” explained Dr. Diaz-Querol, who is the physician-in-charge of the Oxnard Primary Care Offices. “Not only can you recover from pregnancy, labor and delivery sooner if you breastfeed, but, you may also lower your risk for certain health problems, including  breast cancer.”

Breast milk is the only food most babies need until they are about 6-months-old. Until that age, babies do not need to be given baby food, water or juice. Dr. Diaz-Querol encouraged mothers to ask their doctors when they should stop breastfeeding and start feeding their baby solid foods.

While 83% of U.S. infants receive breast milk at birth, only 25% are still exclusively breastfed at 6 months of age, according to California Breastfeeding Coalition. In California, the rate is slightly higher, with 26.3% of infants exclusively breastfed at six months.

“You will gradually breastfeed less often as your baby starts to eat other foods,” Dr. Diaz-Querol  continued. “But, keep breastfeeding for as long as you and your child want to. Your baby will continue to get significant health benefits from breast milk past the first year.”

Can all women breastfeed?

Almost all mothers of newborns are able to breastfeed. Even if you have a health problem – such as diabetes – or if you have had breast surgery, you can likely still breastfeed. But, some women should not breastfeed, such as those who are HIV-positive or have active tuberculosis.

“Breastfeeding is a learned skill – you will get better at it with practice,” Dr. Diaz-Querol noted. “My advice is to be patient with yourself and your baby. If you have trouble, doctors, nurses and lactation consultants can all help. So can friends, family and breastfeeding support groups.”

Kaiser Permanente offers valuable breastfeeding tips to mothers.