More of Louisiana’s low-income, at-risk new mothers participating in the state’s Nurse-Family Partnership Program (NFP) are choosing to breastfeed their babies. Over the past five years, the initiation rate of breastfeeding among NFP moms has improved from 33 percent to 47 percent. The NFP successes are part of Louisiana’s effort to dramatically increase breastfeeding rates to reach the National Healthy People 2020 goal of 81.9 percent over the next 10 years.
The NFP program is an evidence-based preventive intervention which partners low-income first-time pregnant women with registered nurses. The nurses provide support, education and counseling on health issues, including the importance of breastfeeding. NFP clients are among those least likely to breastfeed: 62 percent are African-American, more than half are younger than 19 at enrollment, and all have incomes at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. These women often have little family or community role models or support for breastfeeding. Since 1999, LDH has served more than 6,600 young mothers participating in the NFP program, and nurse home visitors have conducted more than 128,000 home visits across the state. Independent analyses have shown that communities benefit socially and financially when they invest in NFP, and the partnership has been shown to have a favorable economic return to communities of $5.70 for every public dollar spent on the program.
“Raising healthy babies is a critical component of improving the long-term health outcomes of our communities,” says Paula Zeanah, clinical director of the Louisiana Nurse Family Partnership program. “Our breastfeeding mothers are so proud of their choice and see the results in their strong, beautiful infants. But support from the nurse home visitors isn’t the only answer though, we really need better support for breastfeeding mothers and their babies in all parts of the community.”
Three out of four women in the United States provide their infants with the healthiest start in life by breastfeeding. As a whole, Louisiana’s breastfeeding rate in 2007 was 56 percent, a 16 percent increase over five years. Despite these improvements, Louisiana ranks 48th nationally in breastfeeding initiation. National disparities exist, with non-Hispanic black women and socioeconomically disadvantaged groups having lower breastfeeding rates. These disparities are even greater among women in Louisiana with only 36 percent of African-American women having ever breastfed, compared to 64 percent of white women.
U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin today called on America to support the removal of barriers to breastfeeding. The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding indicates that mothers are not getting the support they need to succeed with breastfeeding. The report draws attention to the need for more breastfeeding support in all community settings and institutions, from hospitals to the workplace.
"Encouraging and supporting breastfeeding mothers is one of the powerful tools we can use to help our children be healthier,” said Clayton Williams, assistant secretary for the LDH Office of Public Health. “Breastfeeding is proven to lead to health benefits to moms, reduce obesity in children, and build stronger immune systems.”
To improve breastfeeding rates and support for all mothers in Louisiana, several important initiatives are underway.
- The Guided Infant Feeding Techniques (GIFT) is a breastfeeding certification program that encourages and supports Louisiana hospitals in implementing evidence-based practices for infant feeding and maternal and infant bonding. The GIFT is a joint effort between the Louisiana Maternal and Child Health Coalition, the Louisiana Perinatal Commission and the Office of Public Health-Maternal and Child Health Program. There are currently 18 "GIFT Certified" birthing facilities in the state. Visit www.thegiftla.org for more information.
- The Louisiana Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC) provides breastfeeding education and support to its participants and the community through different channels. Designated Breastfeeding Coordinators, nurses, nutritionists, health educators, nutrition educators and the WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program counsel moms on how to make different breastfeeding strategies work for them.
- WIC clinics also provide breast pumps to mothers needing assistance with breastfeeding due to premature and hospitalized infants, other medical or breastfeeding problems and the need to return to school or work while still choosing to provide breast milk for their infant.
- WIC also partners with breastfeeding entities, such as the Louisiana Breastfeeding Coalition, the Maternal Child Health Coalition, the Louisiana Lactation Consultant Association, the Greater New Orleans Breastfeeding Awareness Coalition, the Central Louisiana Breastfeeding Coalition and the Acadiana Breastfeeding Coalition to recruit local businesses statewide to become breastfeeding-friendly worksites and increase community support for breastfeeding.
- In 2010, LA WIC program received a “WIC Breastfeeding Performance Bonus Award” of $259,710 from the Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in recognition for their achievement in improving breastfeeding rates among WIC participants. The money paid for a statewide breastfeeding outreach campaign.
For more information about breastfeeding, or to get referrals to breastfeeding support organizations, contact the Partners for Healthy Babies Helpline, 1-800-251-BABY (2229), or online at www.1800251baby.org. Local breastfeeding help can be found at www.zipmilk.org.
The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow DHH’s blog at www.myhealthla.org, Twitter at http://twitter.com/La_Health_Dept and search for the Louisiana Department of Health on Facebook.