National Breastfeeding Awareness Month

By Kimberly Allbritton,
Jefferson Co. Health Dept.
Administrator

This edition is addressed to all new and soon-to-be mothers in Jefferson County. August is National Breastfeeding Month. Doctors recommend breastfeeding babies from birth until their first birthday. Solid foods should not be given until the baby is six months old.
In 2018, 86 percent of new mothers in Florida initiated breastfeeding. That percentage was much lower in Jefferson County, where 77 percent of mothers initiated breastfeeding in 2018. About 90 percent of White, non-Hispanic mothers in Jefferson County initiated breastfeeding in 2018, along with 88 percent of Hispanic mothers and 60 percent of Black, non-Hispanic mothers. We would like to encourage all new mothers to breastfeed. Below we list the benefits to mothers and their babies. This article also addresses some concerns women may have about breastfeeding.

Here is What Local Mothers Say About Breastfeeding…
“It makes you feel good because you are doing the best thing for your child.” L. Teasley

“I’m glad I did breastfeed because it helped with his physical development.” K. Mitchell

Benefits
Breastfeeding helps mothers and babies to be closer and to bond. This relationship lasts for a lifetime so we encourage you to start it this way.
Human milk provides virtually all the protein, sugar, and fat your baby needs to be healthy. It contains many things that benefit your baby’s immune system, like antibodies. Mother’s milk protects your baby against a wide variety of diseases and infections not only while he or she is breastfeeding, but in some cases long after the baby is weaned. Formula cannot offer this protection.
Babies who are breastfed only for at least four months, are less likely to be hospitalized for asthma and other breathing problems.
Babies who are breastfed are not as overweight, or as likely to have diabetes, asthma and ear infections as babies who are given formula. Breastfed babies are diagnosed with learning problems less often than formula-fed babies.
Mothers who breastfeed are less likely to be overweight and have type 2 diabetes. Women who breastfeed are less likely to be diagnosed with breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancer, as well as osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis later in life.

Concerns
Mothers who would like to breastfeed may not get support from family, friends or partners. Mothers and older female family members probably used formula, they may not know the benefits of breastfeeding and cannot give advice. Because they were not encouraged to breastfeed, they might even discourage breastfeeding. We can address the lack of support by linking women to peers who are breastfeeding and by educating family members about the importance of breastfeeding.
Partners may not support breastfeeding because of they think breastfeeding will get in the way of the relationship. Many women choose not to breastfeed if their partner or family does not support them. We can address the lack of support by linking women to peers who are breastfeeding and by educating partners about the importance of breastfeeding.
Women who return to work or school may find it is difficult to find the time or a place to pump breast milk or breastfeed and may decide to stop. We can help by providing education on how to develop a schedule to express breast milk and how to store it properly.
Some doctors and nurses have not been trained to help with breastfeeding and do not encourage women to breastfeed. Women can ask for advice from more than one doctor or nurse while in the hospital. We can help by having a lactation counselor visit in the hospital or in the home.
Many mothers are able to breastfeed in the hospital but run into issues when they return home. Without assistance, it is easy to give up. Our Healthy Start and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program staff can provide support before, during, and after your baby is born.
Women may not be able to afford some of the start-up costs such as purchasing or renting a breast pump or paying a lactation consultant for breastfeeding assistance. If women do not know where to go for assistance, or they do not qualify for programs such as WIC, then they may not be able to afford to get the help they need to continue to breastfeed. Breastfeeding does not cost anything to get started. We can provide information about breast pumps that are available through insurance providers and through other means.

Breastfeeding Help
Lactation Consultants at the Department of Health in Jefferson County can provide help before and after your child is born, even if you do not receive prenatal care with us. Our staff can even come to your home to help you with breastfeeding if you are new to the experience or if you are having problems. Please call us at (850) 342-0170, ext. 1209.

Employers
There are benefits for employers who provide a private place for women to breastfeed or express their milk for later use. Establishing a breastfeeding friendly space for customers and employees can help businesses in the following ways:
• Increased business from women who appreciate the space designated to meet their needs while away from home.
• Lowered rate of employee absences because breastfed babies are half as likely to be sick.
Lowered employee health care costs as breastfed babies have less illnesses.
• Increased employee retention because women will return to work after maternity leave.
More information about establishing a breastfeeding area at your site is available at flbreastfeeding.org/business-case-for-breastfeeding/or by contacting (850) 342-0170, extension 1209.