Of the approximately 4 million babies born in the U.S. in 2015, more than 83 percent of them started out breastfeeding, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. However, many of them stop earlier than recommended. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for about the first 6 months with continued breastfeeding along with complementary foods for one year or longer. This can make life better for babies, mothers and even the community.

Benefits for baby

“Newborn babies receive countless perks from breast milk, says Sam Woodworth, certified lactation consultant at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital in Janesville. “The cells, hormones and antibodies in breast milk protect them from a variety of illnesses and health conditions.”

Research shows breastfed babies have lower risks of asthma, childhood obesity and leukemia, ear infections, eczema, Type 2 diabetes and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Benefits for mom

Women who breastfeed also receive some health perks.

“Moms tend to have better postpartum recovery when they’re dedicated to breastfeeding,” says Woodworth. “It can lower their risk of type 2 diabetes, certain types of breast cancer and ovarian cancer.”

Some women who breastfed also say it helped them get back to their pre-pregnancy weight more quickly. However, research is still looking into whether it has a direct impact on weight loss.

Benefits for community

Breastfeeding is better for the environment because the milk is a renewable and portable food source. It can also make the workforce more productive, since mothers may miss less work to care for sick babies. And breastfeeding saves money by lowering medical costs for infants.

For all of these reasons, SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital — Janesville is becoming the first breast milk depot in Rock County, where women can drop off their milk to donate to kids in need. The program is run through the Mothers’ Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes. The organization processes and pasteurizes donated milk and distributes it to premature and sick infants in the region. Mothers of premature infants may have difficulty breastfeeding due to limited contact with newborn, therefore donated milk maybe their only and best option.

“Premature infants especially rely on human milk because it can help fight off an intestinal disease called necrotizing enterocolitis and sepsis, which is a blood infection,” adds Woodworth. “These tiny babies are also known to have shorter hospital stays when they’re regularly fed breast milk.”

A ribbon-cutting ceremony will kick off donations accepted at St. Mary’s Hospital. That will take place July 30 at 11 a.m. in the hospital Town Square. If you’re interested in making future donations, you’ll have to complete an application and go through a blood test. More information can be found on the Mothers’ Milk Bank website at milkbankwgl.org/.

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