Healthy Moms and Babies | Neighborhood extra

BY JULIE PEARSON ANDERSON AND MELISSA FULLER for the Neighborhood Extra

Good nutrition benefits everyone, but giving babies the best nutrition in the first few months of life will not only impact their health in the short term, it can have lifelong effects.

For babies. August is National Breastfeeding Month. By now almost everyone has heard about the numerous health benefits of breastfeeding for babies. But if you haven’t, they carry a lower risk of asthma, allergies, obesity, type 1 diabetes and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Babies who are exclusively breastfed without formula for the first six months have fewer ear infections, respiratory problems, diarrhea, and fewer hospital and doctor visits. Breast milk can contribute to lifelong protection because it passes antibodies from mother to baby — antibodies that help babies develop a strong immune system and protect them from disease. In some studies, breastfeeding has even been linked to higher IQ scores in later childhood. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about six months and then continuing breastfeeding with the introduction of complementary foods until age 2 years.

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For mothers. But not only babies benefit from it. Less well known are the maternal health benefits of breastfeeding. These include reducing the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure; Promote faster postpartum weight loss; stimulation of the uterus to contract and return to normal size; less postpartum bleeding and risk of anemia; fewer urinary tract infections; and reduced risk of postpartum depression.

Local Support Resources. Breastfeeding is best, but it’s not always easy. Several local organizations provide great pre and postpartum support including MilkWorks, the Lincoln Lancaster County WIC program, the Malone Center, El Centro de las Americas, the Asian Community Center, Bluestem Health and Lincoln Family Medicine.

Pregnancy, lactation and COVID-19. Breastfeeding is not the only important preventive health measure for mothers and babies. Here’s what maternal and child medical experts (from the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the University of Nebraska Medical Center, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) say:

• For those planning to become pregnant, there is no evidence that COVID vaccines affect fertility.

• Vaccination is strongly recommended if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning to become pregnant. Pregnant women are at higher risk of more severe illness from COVID than non-pregnant women. Pregnant women with COVID may be more likely to have pregnancy complications than pregnant women without COVID. These complications can be related to high blood pressure, heavy postpartum bleeding, and other infections. This applies in particular to pregnant women with moderate and severe illness.

• COVID vaccines generate antibodies that are passed to the fetus and provide additional protection.

• Immunity to previous COVID infection and immunity to the original two doses of vaccine wanes over time. While immunization protection is more durable, it is important for pregnant women who have been vaccinated to keep up to date with immunizations and receive a third dose (booster) when the time is right.

Babies, toddlers and COVID vaccination. While infants and young children have a lower risk of COVID than other age groups, 453 children ages 0 to 4 years and 846 children ages 5 to 18 years have died from COVID. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a three-dose primary series of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for all children ages 6 months to 4 years. AAP also recommends that children and adolescents with certain immunosuppressive disorders or who are receiving treatments that cause moderate to severe immunosuppression should be vaccinated with an additional dose as part of their primary series of mRNA vaccines. Children, including babies and toddlers, can be vaccinated by their pediatrician or GP. The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department also houses small immunization clinics for children under the age of 5.

Breastfeeding and COVID vaccinations are two of the most powerful health tools for mothers and babies. Stay healthy moms and take care of yourselves.

Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln (HealthyLincoln.org) and LNKTV Health (LNKTVhealth.lincoln.ne.gov) bring you Health and the City, a monthly column that examines relevant community health issues and highlights local organizations focused on the well-being of the impact community. Send questions or comments to [email protected]

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