Editor’s note: In observance of Breastfeeding Awareness Month, the Sidney Daily News is publishing a series of articles concerning “Breastfeeding Foundation of Life.”
SIDNEY — Every year the Sidney-Shelby County WIC joins families in the community, local, state, and global agencies to support, promote and protect breastfeeding. August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month in Ohio and Aug. 1-7 was World Breastfeeding Week (WBW). The theme for both events is “Breastfeeding Foundation of Life.”
Breastfeeding prevents hunger and malnutrition in all forms, including underweight to obesity from artificial feeding. Breastfeeding provides food security from the first day of life, in times of a crisis, and it is the most nutritional and immunologic food for an infant. Breastfeeding decreases burden on household income. It is a low-cost way to feed your baby adding no additional burden to household income. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that Ohio’s 2016 breastfeeding initiation rate of 77.7 percent ranks 38th in the nation. Evidence shows that breastfeeding is a key modifiable factor in illness and disease for the infant and mother.
“In light of the monetary and lifesaving benefits of breastfeeding, all elements of the community, must cooperate and support breastfeeding,” said Shannon Nagel, RN, IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant). “Ultimately, our whole society benefits from having healthier mothers, babies and children when breastfeeding is promoted, protected and supported.”
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.
“I am a Lactation Consultant here at the Health Department and my role is to educate families on the lifesaving benefits of breastfeeding/breastmilk. I then assist moms and dads to reach their breastfeeding goal. It is important we (everyone in the community) understand their goal. I provide support for breastfeeding and returning to work, nursing in public, and nursing through the challenges. Everyone can support a breastfeeding family,” said Nagel.
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 staffs 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, said Nagel.
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. Child care 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.
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, said Nagel.
For more information about breastfeeding in Shelby County, call the Sidney Shelby County Health Department/WIC at 937-498-4637.