RICHLAND COUNTY — August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month in Ohio. This week is World Breastfeeding Week (WBW). The last week in August is Black Breastfeeding Week. Research suggests that breastfeeding is a key modifiable factor for disease for both mothers and infants.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and continued breastfeeding with the addition of appropriate solid food for the first year and beyond.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that Ohio’s 2018 breastfeeding initiation rate of 81.9 percent ranks 36th in the nation. For this year’s Breastfeeding Awareness Month, Ohio will adopt the theme “Support Breastfeeding for a Healthier Planet.” This theme focuses on the impact of infant feeding on the environment/climate change and the imperative to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding for the health of the planet and its people.
The CDC also states that rates of breastfeeding duration and exclusivity are lower among Black infants than among white infants. Increasing rates of breastfeeding initiation and supporting continuation of breastfeeding among Black women might help reduce disparities in breastfeeding duration. Strategies might include improving peer and family support, access to evidence-based maternity care, and employment support.
“In light of the monetary and life-saving benefits of breastfeeding, all elements of the community must cooperate and support breastfeeding.” said Bethany Haring, Richland/Ashland County WIC Supervisor and Breastfeeding Coordinator. “Ultimately, our whole society benefits from having healthier mothers, babies and children when breastfeeding is promoted, protected and supported.”
Breastfeeding is a personal choice, but communities play a vital role in informing and supporting a mother’s decision to breastfeed her baby. Returning our communities back into a breastfeeding supportive culture will take efforts by family, friends, employers, educational institutions, hospitals and businesses.
One of the most important things businesses and the community can do is to allow mothers to feel comfortable nursing in public. Hungry babies need to eat and Ohio law (Section 3781.55 of the Ohio Revised Code) allows breastfeeding in public. Businesses can show their support by placing the “Breastfeeding Welcome Here” universal sign for breastfeeding in their windows and educate their staff on the acceptance of breastfeeding in their establishments. They can also encourage their employees and provide a private space (other than a bathroom) to pump. This will increase employee retention and reduce medical costs.
Hospitals can adopt the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding as an indication that they are dedicated to supporting new mothers who choose to breastfeed. By eliminating formula gifts to breastfeeding mothers, they send the message that they believe mothers can make enough milk to breastfeed exclusively.
Educational institutions can support breastfeeding by presenting age appropriate education on the anatomy and physiology of the human body. Local county fairs can teach young children about how other mammals feed their young with milk that is made just for them. Childcare providers and libraries can also stock children’s books that show breastfeeding as a normal part of family life.
Social media can also provide support to breastfeeding mothers through Facebook and Twitter. Breastfeeding mothers can reach out through groups and chatrooms and get the support they need to feel normal in a formula feeding culture.
For more information about breastfeeding, TEXT keyword localwic + your zip code to 67076 or visit www.signupwic.com/local. You can also reach out to the Appalachian Breastfeeding Network Breastfeeding Helpline at 1-888-588-3423.