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Breastfeeding: Great for Babies and Moms, MU Expert Says

World Breastfeeding Week is Aug. 1-7

July 18, 2007

Story Contact:  Jennifer Faddis, 573-882-6217,

COLUMBIA, Mo. — New mothers have many decisions to make and some think one of the most important is whether to breastfeed. A University of Missouri-Columbia nursing professor says doctors and nurses need to improve their efforts to educate women on the benefits of breastfeeding and help them overcome some of the hurdles.

“It shouldn't even be a decision because breastfeeding is so much better for the baby,” said Kay Libbus, professor in the MU Sinclair School of Nursing. “It is very rare for breastfeeding to be physiologically impossible. Unfortunately, there are many societal glitches.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that an infant be breastfed without supplemental foods or liquids for the first six months of age. However, no U.S. state has achieved an exclusive breastfeeding rate of 25 percent or greater during the first six months of a newborns' life, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Faster healing and weight loss can be a benefit to mothers who breastfeed, Libbus said. For babies, some research has shown a greater immunity to allergies and other childhood illnesses. Mothers also report a great sense of bonding with their newborns through breastfeeding. However, some people believe this experience may cheat the father out of an equal chance at bonding.

“A baby isn't being breastfed 24 hours a day so there are many opportunities for Dads to bond. Mothers can even pump breast milk so that Fathers can bottle feed the babies,” Libbus said.

New mothers often look to their own mothers as examples. If a woman's mother breastfed and was successful, a woman is more likely to have positive feelings about breastfeeding and be willing to initiate it, according to Libbus. However, if a woman's own mother used formula or had a troublesome experience with breastfeeding, it is less likely that a woman will initiate breastfeeding.

“We need to be helping moms. Many women don't ask questions because they feel they should naturally know how to breastfeed and that just isn't the case. Every woman should have an opportunity to see a lactation consultant to help them learn easier and better methods for making breastfeeding work,” Libbus said. “Of course, if a woman really doesn't want to breastfeed, she shouldn't feel forced to do so. That isn't good for the mental health of a new mother.”