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The Rice County WIC Program is celebrating World Breastfeeding Week August 1-7 and Minnesota Breastfeeding Awareness Month in August. This year’s theme focuses on “Empower Parents, Enable Breastfeeding.”
As community members, employers and health professionals we can do a lot to support women and families, and help mom and baby get this healthy start. When one of our participants first contacted WIC over nine years ago she was motivated to breastfeed because of the cost of formula and the need to wash “all those bottles”. She was able to breastfeed her first child for three months and over that time, increased her breastfeeding confidence from the support of friends and family. She breastfed her second child for seven months and with her third child she had a goal of breastfeeding for one year. At ten months she was concerned that her milk supply was decreasing. With her medical provider’s simple encouragement and the breastfeeding bond she experienced with her infant, she was able to breastfeed for 17 months. We are sharing this story, in an effort to show that support from others can make a big difference.
World Breastfeeding Week helps raise awareness of the importance of support in empowering a mother to successfully breastfeed and reach her goals. Breastfeeding is one of the best investments in saving lives and improving health. Support from family, employers, childcare, and healthcare providers all play a critical role in enabling a mother to breastfeed.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding is the standard for infant feeding. It provides essential nutrients and antibodies that boost an infant’s immune system, providing protection from childhood illnesses. Babies who are breastfed are less likely to develop common childhood illnesses like ear infections and diarrhea as well as chronic conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, asthma and childhood obesity. For mothers, breastfeeding leads to lower risk of breast and ovarian cancers, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
WIC programs provide education, resources, support and referrals to help women get a strong start with breastfeeding. Nine out of ten WIC moms begin breastfeeding, but five of those nine will stop breastfeeding before six months, most often citing a return to work as the reason for early weaning.
Rice County Public Health’s Statewide Health Improvement Partnership and the Dodge, Rice and Steele County Breastfeeding Coalition are working together to be a part of the solution by promoting and supporting breastfeeding friendly workplaces. One of our partners, Natalie Ginter-Secraw, Director of Community Engagement & Development for Allina Health comments, “With over 650 staff employed on the Faribault Healthcare Campus, there are always staff in need of breastfeeding and lactation support in the workplace. We’ve had as many as 10 employees at one time in need of breastfeeding support and space for pumping while at work. As a healthcare provider, we know that breastfeeding initiation is highest immediately after birth, but declines sharply when mothers return to work. This is especially true in worksites who do not actively support breastfeeding employees by providing time and space for moms to pump at work.”
The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) recognizes those who take steps to provide accommodations and support for women who would like to breastfeed or continue to breastfeed after returning to work or school. Visit the MDH Breastfeeding Friendly Recognition Program website for more details.
Sara Coulter, Rice County Public Health, (507) 332-6111
Deb Purfeerst, Rice County Public Health Director, (507) 332-6111
Sara Folsted, Rice County Administrator, (507) 332-6121