WABA (World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action) had set aside the week of August 1-7 as World Breastfeeding Week. The emphasis this year is “Mother Support: Going for the Gold”.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta releases a breastfeeding report card each year for every state. You can search their site to find out the statistics for your state. Georgia’s statistic for “ever breastfed” is 68.2%. Keep in mind this number reflects any mother who ever tried breastfeeding even once, but never breastfed again. Our statistics for mothers who are still breastfeeding at 6 months was 38% and those who continue to 12 months were 16.8%. This falls very short of the Healthy People 2010 goals, set by the national government.
The government funded WIC program supplied over $3 billion last year in formula alone. At tax payer expense, we are creating a system in which we inadvertently discourage the free milk which nature provides and are possibly creating infants with more health problems, which may also have to be funded at tax payer’s expense. This is self defeating.
To experience any changes to our state breastfeeding statistics, we have to address several issues. Employers need to realize the economic value of supporting and encouraging their new mothers to continue to breastfeed after returning to work. A healthier baby with less illness means fewer days missed at work and less claims on their health benefits. This can be accomplished by simply providing a quiet, private place for moms to pump their milk at work and a place to store it, along with a break during the day. Acknowledging that we have high school age single moms that may still need to finish school, I envision a place in every high school for a returning young mother to pump milk and store it until she can return to her child.
Also, we need to address public attitudes towards nursing mothers. While the moms in my support group discuss ways in which to breastfeed discreetly in public, there are just times and places in which you have a hungry baby who doesn’t tolerate hiding under a hot blanket. As a society, we need to remember that this mom has chosen the very best method for nourishing her baby and needs to be encouraged and supported, rather than admonished. We need to remember that she is using her anatomy for the very purpose it was designed. How will we ever improve our statistics if we look upon nursing mothers as an aberration instead of the biological norm? If little children grow up seeing mothers nourish their infants at the breast, they will come to see that as a natural choice. But if they never see it, they will only have the mass-marketed bottles and formula as a reference point.
If you visit http://www.promom.org/101 you will read 101 documented reasons to choose breastfeeding for your child. Among them are:
- Formula feeding increases the mother’s risk of breast cancer
- Formula feeding increases a baby girls’ risk of developing breast cancer in later life
- Breast milk contains immunities to diseases and aids in the development of baby’s immune system
- Breastfeeding satisfies baby’s emotional needs and increases bonding between mother and baby
- Formula feeding increases mother’s risk of developing ovarian cancer
- The World Health Organization and UNICEF recommend it
- Breastfeeding protects against Crohn’s disease (intestinal disorder)
- Formula feeding increases risk of children developing diabetes
- Breastfeeding baby helps decrease insulin requirements in diabetic mothers
- Breastfeeding may help stabilize progress of maternal endometriosis
- Formula feeding increases chances of baby developing allergies
- Breastfeeding protects baby against bacterial meningitis
- Breastfeeding protects baby against respiratory infections
- And on and on and on….
So, next time you happen upon a mother feeding her baby at the breast, smile and give her a “thumbs up”. She has chosen a way to feed her baby that offers so many advantages. She needs our support and encouragement.