By Jackie James

August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month, an important month especially for teen moms! Learning more about breastfeeding can help you decide if it is the right choice for you and your baby.

Having a baby is a special time in a woman’s life; it’s both exciting and scary, all at the same time! Being a new mother has its challenges but being a teen mom has its own unique hurdles, and that includes making the best decisions on behalf of your baby. One thing you learn as a new mother is sacrifice; the wants and needs of your child must come first, even if those choices make you feel awkward. While the choice to bottle feed or breast feed is a personal one, there are many compelling reasons to give breastfeeding a try.

Many teen moms find breastfeeding…awkward, and they are hesitant to attempt it. However, with encouragement and instruction, these young mothers can learn how to nurse their children and learn the benefits of doing so. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that new mothers nurse their children for a minimum of six months, because mother’s milk is full of nutrients and disease-fighting antibodies. Research shows that babies who are exclusively breastfed for the first few months of life are less susceptible to ear infections, stomach viruses, and allergies because they are receiving the right balance of nutrients. There are even scientific studies that suggest that breastfed babies may have higher intelligence due to the fatty acids in mother’s milk and the prolonged bonding period with the mother while feeding. Babies who breast feed are less likely to become obese as they get older, because they receive less insulin, which creates fat, and receive more leptin, the hormone that controls hunger. Breastfed babies also show a lower number of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) deaths in a formal study and this study indicates that breastfeeding has benefits the mother, too. Fewer cases of postpartum depression, the feeling of sadness after the birth of the baby, were reported by nursing mothers versus mothers who strictly fed their babies with a bottle. Nursing moms also showed a decreased risk of contracting certain cancers, and since nursing burns so many calories, many moms experienced a rapid reduction of that extra “baby weight” gained during pregnancy.

Breastfeeding does not come naturally to everyone, so don’t give up after just one try. While nursing can be a struggle for some, there are nurses and lactation consultants who can guide you to successful nursing. There are times when the baby may have difficulty latching on, or your nipples become sore, or you don’t produce enough milk; these are normal and natural occurrences. Programs like WIC, or a consultation with your doctor can assist with breastfeeding tips and tricks to make the process an easy and productive one for both you and your baby.

Another factor to consider—breastfeeding is decidedly less expensive than baby formula. Many new moms opt for formula because they believe it is easier, but the estimated cost of formula feeding your baby for just one year is anywhere from $1000.00 to $2000.00.  Besides the health benefits that nursing provides, saving money is an extra bonus!

While studies have shown there are many benefits to breastfeeding your child, oftentimes, statistics dictate that many younger mothers, single mothers, or mothers from poorer households don’t consider breastfeeding. Teens that have role models who breastfed or who are willing to take the time to teach them how to nurse a child are more inclined to stick with nursing than those teens without such role models. It is important to consider all the factors when making choices for your baby; be an informed parent who is ready to provide the very best for your child.