Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin issued a “Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding” featuring ways to overcome obstacles faced by women who want t o breastfeed their babies.
“Many barriers exist for mothers who want to breastfeed,” says Dr. Benjamin. “They shouldn’t have to go it alone. Whether you’re a clinician, a family member, a friend, or an employer, you can play an important part in helping mothers who want to breastfeed.
“Of course, the decision to breastfeed is a personal one,” she added, “no mother should be made to feel guilty if she cannot or chooses not to breastfeed.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that only 13 percent of mothers that start out breastfeeding are still exclusively breastfeeding at the end of six months. The rates are particularly low among African-American infants. Breastfeeding can help protect infants from several types of illnesses, and mothers who breastfeed have a lower risk of breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, and many other health conditions.
Dr. Benjamin’s “Call to Action” proposes:
- Communities should expand and improve programs that provide mother-to-mother support and peer counseling.
- Health care systems should ensure that maternity care practices provide education and counseling on breastfeeding. Hospitals should become more “baby-friendly,” by taking steps like those recommended by the UNICEF/WHO’s Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative.
- Clinicians should ensure that they are trained to properly care for breastfeeding mothers and babies. They should promote breastfeeding to their pregnant patients and make sure that mothers receive the best advice on how to breastfeed.
- Employers should work toward establishing paid maternity leave and high-quality lactation support programs. Employers should expand the use of programs that allow nursing mothers to have their babies close by so they can feed them during the day. They should also provide women with break time and private space to express breast milk.
- Families should give mothers the support and encouragement they need to breastfeed.
To speak with a breastfeeding counselor at the Women’s Health Information Center call 1-800-994-9662 Monday through Friday, 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM ET.
photo credit: Mishelle Lane