Health Department stresses support for breastfeeding mothers

Staff Report

The Fulton County Health Department is highlighting the importance of breastfeeding for those who are able. August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month in Ohio, and Aug. 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week.

This year’s theme, “Breastfeeding, Foundation of Life,” focuses on breastfeeding as a key to preventing hunger and malnutrition by guaranteeing food security for babies. Breastfeeding provides a low-cost way to feed babies which can help lower poverty.

In Fulton County, the WIC program has one certified lactation counselor and two peer helpers. The entire WIC staff encourages and supports breastfeeding.

The peer helper’s main function is to counsel moms and provide prenatal education as well as follow-up support. This is accomplished through phone calls, face-to-face conversations with WIC moms, distribution of pumps, and facilitating the program’s Moms Group, which is open to all moms and prenatal women in the county.

Although the WIC staff provides a valuable service to breastfeeding moms, it is crucial that they receive support from families, friends, health care providers, and employers in order to achieve their overall goal.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and 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.

It’s important for businesses and the community to allow mothers to feel comfortable nursing in public, according to the Health Department. Hungry babies need to eat, and Ohio law allows breastfeeding in public. Businesses can show their support by placing a “Breastfeeding Welcome Here” sign in their windows and educate staff on the acceptance of breastfeeding in their establishments. They can also encourage their employees and provide a private space other than a restroom to pump. This will increase employee satisfaction and reduce overall medical costs.

A 2010 study found that if 90 percent of new mothers breastfed, the United States would save $13 billion per year in healthcare 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.

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.

For further information, contact the WIC program, Fulton County 419-337-6979.

Staff Report