States Highlight Importance of Breastfeeding During World Breastfeeding Week

August 07, 2015|4:12 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that women breastfeed exclusively for at least the first six months of a baby’s life, and notes that babies who are breastfed for a year or longer will get the best nutrition. Breast milk is widely acknowledged to be the most complete form of nutrition for most infants, with a range of benefits for their health, growth, immunity, and development. Additionally, breastfeeding has many reported benefits for women, as it can help with weight loss, improve bone density, and reduce bleeding, and may reduce the risk of breast, ovarian, and uterine cancer. In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1-7, health departments across the nation are raising awareness about breastfeeding and have developed policies that promote breastfeeding-friendly work environments.

California Department of Public Health

The California Department of Public Health reports that only half of California mothers returning to work have a place and time to pump breast milk and low-income women are less likely to have access to these accommodations. Women with workplace support for breastfeeding are twice as likely to report exclusive breastfeeding at three months postpartum than women without accommodations.

The agency offers several online breastfeeding resources:

Georgia Department of Public Health

The Georgia Department of Public Health is a designated breastfeeding-friendly workplace and is committed to creating environments across the state. GDPH’s Maternal and Child Health Section’s Georgia 5-STAR Hospital Initiative is training birthing hospital staff to create a breastfeeding-friendly environment in its facilities. The initiative assists hospitals in taking steps towards earning Baby-Friendly status, a worldwide designation that recognizes facilities for implementing health care delivery practices that support breastfeeding and maternal health. To date, three Georgia hospitals have earned Baby-Friendly status, and many others are in the accreditation process.

Iowa Department of Public Health

CDC’s 2014 Breastfeeding Report Card shows that Iowa exceeds the national average in every breastfeeding rate indicator: 82.1 percent of Iowa infants have ever been breastfed, compared to the national average of 79.2 percent. Further, 51.6 percent of Iowa infants continue to breastfeed at 6 months of age, compared to the national average of 49.4 percent, and 28.9 percent of babies continue to breastfeed at 12 months of age, compared to the national average of 26.7 percent. Iowa Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Nutrition and Health Promotion provides technical assistance to birthing hospitals, healthcare professionals, and local breastfeeding taskforces in their efforts to support breastfeeding mothers and infants, and offers information about breastfeeding on its breastfeeding website and Pinterest page.

Oklahoma State Department of Health

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) supports all women, working in both the public and private sectors, to adequately combine work with child-rearing, particularly breastfeeding. Data provided in the 2012 Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System and the Oklahoma Toddler Survey indicate that while 85.6 percent of Oklahoma mothers initiated breastfeeding, only 34.8 percent breastfed for six or more months. Oklahoma initiation rates have met the national benchmark of 81.9 percent of mother’s breastfeeding as established by Healthy People 2020. However, more improvement is needed to meet the Healthy People 2020 goal for 60.6 percent of mothers to breastfeed for at least six months.

During World Breastfeeding Week, OSDH’s Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) clinics will be encouraging breastfeeding in Oklahoma by presenting award certificates to mothers who choose to breastfeed. OSDH and the Coalition of Oklahoma Breastfeeding Advocates will also recognize worksites that offer a written breastfeeding policy, flexible break times and a private location for mothers to express milk, and an accessible water source for washing hands and breast pump equipment. For information on Oklahoma’s Breastfeeding Friendly Worksites and a list of current recognized sites, visit the Oklahoma breastfeeding website.

South Dakota Department of Health

CDC data show that although 77.7 percent of mothers in South Dakota initiate breastfeeding, much lower percentages of women exclusively breastfeed or are still breastfeeding after 6 and 12 months. According to the South Dakota Department of Health, these numbers indicate that many mothers may face barriers and a lack of support that make it difficult to continue breastfeeding their babies. To encourage moms to breastfeed and help family members and employers support them, Gov. Dennis Daugaard proclaimed Aug. 1-7 World Breastfeeding Week in South Dakota. The state developed a breastfeeding website that contains information and resources for parents, business owners, and physicians.

Tennessee Department of Health

The Tennessee Department of Health (TDH) has undertaken many efforts to support breastfeeding mothers. To date, more than 600 businesses have taken the state’s “Breastfeeding Welcomed Here” pledge, indicating their support for mothers to breastfeed at their locations. The state hopes that this campaign will encourage more women to breastfeed their babies and breastfeed for longer by making Tennessee’s community friendlier to breastfeeding families.

“When we think about how we can protect the health of a baby once she is born, breastfeeding is an optimal choice and is one of the best examples of primary prevention, something that can stop a future health issue from ever even happening in the first place,” says TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner. “We fully support all efforts to encourage more mothers to nurse their babies, and we urge Tennesseans to learn about the benefits of breastfeeding to help build the community of support for nursing mothers and babies in the workplace and every place.”

Additionally, TDH offers several other breastfeeding efforts, including:

  • The Tennessee Breastfeeding Hotline, 1-855-4BF-MOMS (1-855-423-6667), which is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to connect breastfeeding mothers, caregivers, family members, and others seeking information on breastfeeding with international board-certified lactation consultants and certified lactation counselors. TDH provides the Tennessee Breastfeeding Hotline in partnership with Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis.
  • The Tennessee General Assembly has passed laws protecting a mother’s right to breastfeed in any location, public or private; prohibiting local governments from criminalizing or restricting breastfeeding; and requiring employers in Tennessee to accommodate breastfeeding mothers at work.
  • TDH has designated breastfeeding experts who are certified lactation counselors or international board-certified lactation consultants available in all Tennessee county health departments to provide breastfeeding services for all women.

To learn more about state breastfeeding efforts, check out ASTHO’s website.