The benefits of breastfeeding are being promoted by advocates during World Breastfeeding Week.
Many of the proponents are also physicians and parents, like Dr. Lara Ross, a pediatrician at Rush Hospital.
As a mother of two, Ross says breast milk is the most complete form of nutrition, and is best for her and her baby.
"Breastfeeding is usually initiated within the first few weeks of life. We want to start it within the first 24 hours, to have the baby within the first hour after birth start to nurse," said Ross. "And this helps the mother to produce milk and it helps her to bond with her baby as well. If we are able to institute breastfeeding early on after delivery, then breastfeeding can continue on for several months to a year or two or whatever is most beneficial for the mother and the baby."
Ross said it's also the most practical method, since there's no preparation time needed. And it's ready in times of emergency when power is lost and there's no way to heat formula or sterilize bottles.
"It's the perfect temperature. And it's the perfect nutritional substance for the children," she said. "So it, you know, it's very important that we start it early and not try to start breastfeeding after a disaster strikes."
Ross said she wants emergency workers at shelters to understand the importance of breastfeeding and encourage them to create an environment where it can take place.
She said the benefits for both mother and child are numerous, such as lowering stress levels, reducing the baby's chances for illness, and even helping the mother lose weight put on during pregnancy.
"Even when mothers are sick, they're able to breastfeed, because a lot of the antibodies they're making to their illness, they're able to pass to the baby and a lot of times the baby will have less illness due to that," Ross said.
Ross says breastfed babies are ready for anything.