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Health officials push virtues of breastfeeding babies

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 FRANKFORT - The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) is working to emphasize the importance of providing support for breastfeeding families.

This push comes on the heels of World Breastfeeding Week in early August.

This message extends to fathers, family members, friends, employers and other key individuals who can play a role in the effort to build a supportive network for breastfeeding mothers.

“We encourage mothers to breastfeed to ensure that infants are getting the nutrition they need to grow and thrive,” said Health and Family Services Cabinet Secretary Audrey Tayse Haynes. 

“Even the most committed mothers can struggle to successfully breastfeed when they don’t have the kind of support system they need at home, at the workplace and in the community. If we want to send the message that breastfeeding is important and improve our breastfeeding rates, we need to support mothers who choose to breastfeed.”

Medical and professional organizations worldwide emphasize breastfeeding and the importance of support for new mothers. Similarly, public health has participated in programs, such as the Business Case for Breastfeeding, that have assisted businesses with the implementation of breastfeeding-friendly policies.

“Families and friends can play a role by offering encouragement and assistance at home,” said Fran Hawkins, director of the Kentucky Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program. “Even with that support at home, continuing breastfeeding after returning to work is a tremendous challenge.”

Four steps are encouraged to make work environments more conducive to breastfeeding: support from managers and coworkers; flexible time to express milk (around 10 to 15 minutes three times per day);  education for employees about how to combine breastfeeding and work; and a designated space to breastfeed or express milk in privacy.

Public health officials stress that continuing breastfeeding after returning to work is often necessary to meet the recommendations for optimal infant nutrition.

The World Health Organization (WHO), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and other medical organizations recommend that babies are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life, and continue to be breastfed, along with other food sources, for at least a year. 

The World Breastfeeding Week 2012 slogan “The Road to Lifelong Health Begins with Breastfeeding” focuses on the lifelong health benefits that breastfeeding provides to both mothers and babies.

The health and nutritional status of mothers and infants are directly linked, making appropriate infant feeding a critical first step in preventing these and a variety of other medical conditions.

Families, health professionals, governments, employers and communities must support breastfeeding mothers for the mother to have a successful breastfeeding experience.

 “When breastfeeding mothers have little support, they are more likely to stop breastfeeding before they reach their goals,” said Marlene Goodlett, breastfeeding promotion coordinator for Kentucky public health.

The Kentucky Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program provides support and information for prenatal and breastfeeding mothers to help ensure good health for Kentucky’s babies. The program operates through local health departments and provides one-on-one counseling, information and round-the-clock guidance for mothers new to breastfeeding. “The peer counseling service is a wonderful program for breastfeeding mothers,” said Goodlett. “We’ve had a great deal of success helping mothers learn to breastfeed and remain committed to their breastfeeding goals.”

Kentucky law protects women who wish to breastfeed their babies in public. This law permits a mother to breastfeed her baby or express breast milk in any public or private location. This law also requires that breastfeeding not be considered an act of public indecency or indecent exposure.

For more information, contact the Bullitt County Health Department at 543-2415.