MEDICARE COVERS SCREENING FOR DEPRESSION

Have you made a resolution to take better care of yourself this year? Be sure to consider not only your physical health but your mental health as well.  According to a new federal report from the Centers for Disease Control, people in the United States have made great progress in some health areas — for example, they get more exercise and fewer teens smoke cigarettes — but they have lagged behind in many others, particularly in the area of mental health.

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CHECK WITH YOUR DOCTOR BEFORE STARTING AN EXERCISE PROGRAM

You hear it all the time: “Before beginning any exercise program, see your doctor.”

It’s good advice, especially if you’ve been sedentary and are now determined to get back into shape. It is important to consult a physician about your current state of health so you can be aware of possible limitations or problems that could arise while you’re working out.

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BREASTFEEDING GIVES BABIES THE BEST START

Breastfeeding is the best way to give your child a healthy start in life. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says human milk provides the most complete form of nutrition for infants. It is more convenient than bottle feeding because the milk is always available at the right temperature, and there are no supplies to sterilize or formulas to mix. Breast milk substitutes such as formula are harder to digest, especially for premature infants since they have an immature gut.

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BREASTFEEDING GIVES BABIES THE BEST START

Breastfeeding is the best way to give your child a healthy start in life. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says human milk provides the most complete form of nutrition for infants. It is more convenient than bottle feeding because the milk is always available at the right temperature, and there are no supplies to sterilize or formulas to mix. Breast milk substitutes such as formula are harder to digest, especially for premature infants since they have an immature gut.


The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of an infant’s life. Breast milk alone is sufficient to support optimal growth and development. Before the milk comes in, in the first few days after birth, the breasts make a thick, yellowish fluid called colostrum. Colostrum has antibodies, proteins, fats, carbohydrates and minerals the infant needs. The content of the breast milk changes as the infant grows to meet its individual needs.


There are many benefits to breastfeeding for a baby. A breastfeeding mother imparts passive immunity and antibodies to her baby. Breastfeeding has been shown to protect against ear infections, diarrhea, respiratory aliments, intestinal disorders, colds, viruses, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, childhood cancers and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Breast milk also provides lifetime protection from Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, some lymphomas, insulin-dependent

diabetes, being overweight, female breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Breastfed babies also have a decreased likelihood for allergies and dental caries.


Breastfeeding mothers also reap many rewards. According to the WHO, exclusive breastfeeding is associated with a natural method of birth control (98 percent protection in the first six months after birth). It reduces risks of breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes and postpartum depression. Women who breastfeed often find their bodies recover from pregnancy and childbirth more quickly. The hormones released when a women breastfeeds make the uterus contract back to its prepregnancy size. Mothers who exclusively breastfeed can burn as many as 500 calories a day, which may help them get back to their prepregnancy weight much sooner.


An often overlooked benefit to breastfeeding is the emotional bond it creates between mother and child. According to researcher Fleur Bickford, “Babies go to the breast for many reasons — they’re hungry or thirsty, they’re tired, they’re scared or hurt, they’re feeling overwhelmed. All of these are equally valid reasons for a baby to nurse.” Research has shown that when babies are allowed to nurse

whenever they like, they turn out to be well adjusted and independent. There is no reason to worry about overfeeding your baby if you let her nurse every time she wants comfort. Babies should be fed on demand.


How long should you breastfeed? The answer is simple: as long as you and baby both wish to. The WHO advises breastfeeding up to two years or longer. Some initial discomfort, such as nipple soreness, is normal in the first week as your body adjusts. Any cracking and/or scabbing of the nipples is not normal. If you are having trouble breastfeeding, contact your primary care provider, who can find a lactation consultant to help you. Another great resource is La Leche League International. They offer local monthly meetings for breastfeeding mothers and give support, advice and tips for new mothers (www.kybreastfeeding.com/CentralLLL.html).

LORI DENISON, APRN

Lori Denison, APRN, is a Board Certified Family Nurse Practitioner with a degree from Spalding University. Lori has several years of experience in the clinical and hospital settings and an interest in women’s health.

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