August is National Breastfeeding Month, and Gov. Bobby Jindal proclaimed this month in Louisiana as an opportunity to highlight the health benefits of breastfeeding, encourage more families to choose this option and call on the community to support breastfeeding and make it easier for women and families to participate.
Louisiana's rate of infants who are ever breastfed is 53.5 percent, compared to the national average rate of 76.9 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's 2012 Breastfeeding Report Card. Louisiana also has lower-than-national-average rates of infants who are exclusively breastfed at three months and six months, and lower rates of infants who continue breastfeeding through 12 months. The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals' Office of Public Health is using this month to raise awareness of why breastfeeding is the healthiest choice for families.
"Breastfeeding is good for both the mother and the baby," said Dr. Takeisha Davis, LDH Office of Public Health Chief Medical Officer. "This month, we want to let Louisiana moms know there are programs and services available to support them and their entire family so they can give their infants a better start at a healthy life by choosing to breastfeed."
Some positive health outcomes mothers and babies experience from breastfeeding, continued at least for the first six months of the baby's life, include:
- Increased natural immunity and lowered risk for babies of infections and stomach problems, allergic reactions, asthma and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
- Reduced risk of babies becoming obese or developing diabetes later in life. Breastfeeding may also reduce the mother's risk of certain breast and ovarian cancers and Type II diabetes.
- Increased opportunity for the mother to relax and develop a special bond with her baby.
- Greater weight reduction for mothers who breastfeed because they lose pregnancy weight faster. They also have an opportunity to save more money than mothers who don't breastfeed because they don't have to buy formula, bottles and other feeding supplies.
During the month of August, LDH Office of Public Health staff are promoting key statewide activities and initiatives that are under way to improve Louisiana's rates of breastfeeding.
Earlier this year, LDH became the first State agency to enact a Workplace Lactation Program, designating lactation rooms at LDH headquarters, the Bienville Building in downtown Baton Rouge, and at LDH's Benson Towers office in New Orleans, where many Office of Public Health programs are located. These rooms provide a private, secure space for breastfeeding mothers, who are returning to work and need to pump, supporting them in continuing to breastfeed.
The Guided Infant Feeding Techniques (Gift) is a breastfeeding certification program that supports Louisiana birthing hospitals to implement evidence-based practices surrounding infant feeding and maternal and infant bonding. This approach enables more women to begin breastfeeding at the hospital, which makes them more likely to continue breastfeeding after the baby is home. Twenty-four Louisiana hospitals have achieved Gift Certification, and the program is continuing outreach to promote participation from more hospitals. The Gift is a program within LDH's Maternal and Child Health Program. Visit www.thegiftla.org for more information.
The Louisiana Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC), a nutrition program housed in LDH's Office of Public Health, provides breastfeeding education and support to its participants and the community through different channels. The WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program offers peer-to-peer support for mothers to help them learn which breastfeeding strategies work for them. WIC clinics provide breast pumps and other breastfeeding tools at no cost to mothers who have premature or hospitalized infants and need to increase their breast milk supply, mothers who have other medical or breastfeeding problems and mothers who are returning to school or work and want to continue breastfeeding.
The WIC program received a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in recognition of their work to improve breastfeeding rates among Louisiana families in the program. The grant funds were used to purchase more breast pumps to distribute to new breastfeeding mothers, and to implement a statewide breastfeeding outreach campaign. That campaign, which features a Louisiana family that chose breastfeeding, will begin in August with a series of billboard public service messages placed throughout the state.
For more information about breastfeeding, or to get referrals for 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.