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Local mothers find benefits of breast-feeding outweigh inconveniences

By Valerie Kiger

lifestyle@postbulletin.com

Breast-feeding children can provide them not only with the best nutrition, but with a wide array of health benefits, including protection from ear infections to lifelong lowered risks of lymphoma.

But there are other benefits, including financial savings, convenience and a close relationship between mother and child, say mothers who have nursed their children.

Cristina Villarreal, 17, of Rochester, is nursing her nearly 1-year-old boy, Gilbert Hernandez Jr., for all the benefits it provides.

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"It's cheaper, and they get so much benefit out of it," she said. She's continued to provide breast milk by pumping while attending school to earn her GED. While some friends have stopped nursing their children at an earlier age, Villareal remains dedicated.

"Everybody felt it was too time-consuming, because it really is, but I think it's worth it," she said. "The closeness with your baby ... In the first months it's really just cool to be close with your baby."

Other Rochester mothers agreed.

"There are huge monetary benefits. Like, I would eat $1 more a day (in food), no big deal, and the baby's food was free," said Laura Ehling, who nursed her first two children until they were 19 months old.

Compare that with an estimated cost for formula of $1,500 to $3,000 per year, according to Olmsted Medical Center lactation consultant Joan Holst.

Ehling herself healed better after delivering her children Emma and Fiona, she said, "Because I was forced to sit down -- I was the only one who could feed them."

For Melissa Nerland, nursing her 2 1/2-year-old son, Maxwell, gives him comfort when he needs it and provides mother and son time to cuddle.

"We're so busy during the day that sometimes it's a good time for us to visit, be together and cuddle and snuggle," Nerland said.

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Amy Wieners said she feels like a better mother providing daughter Chloe with breast milk, and it brings them closer together, too.

"Really, the bonding. Since I'm so biologically involved with her schedule, it's a lot easier for us to be in click," Wieners said. "Spending time with her makes me feel a lot better. It's a lot easier for me to calm down."

She also likes not having to carry bottles and packets of powdered formula with her when she takes Chloe out. For Wieners, as for many women, the medical benefits influence their decision the most.

"The biggest thing is, they keep adding new things to formula they say babies need, and they keep finding out all the things in breast milk that are good. It makes you wonder what haven't they found yet (to add to formula)?"

By and large, the push to persuade more mothers to breast-feed longer is based on medical research showing numerous medical benefits, both in childhood and adulthood.

These include reducing the chance children will die of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), develop lymphoma (a type of cancer), have ear or urinary tract infections, have serious illnesses or allergies. Breast-fed babies often spit up less and have less diarrhea and constipation.

As adults, breast-fed babies are less likely to have a heart attack or develop allergies, skin problems, Crohn's disease, diabetes or asthma. Studies have shown that children who were breast-fed score higher on IQ tests, too.

Breast-feeding also can benefit mothers, with a lowered risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and osteoporosis.

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