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World Breastfeeding Week: A Celebration and Call to Action

August 1, 2018

World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) begins August 1st with events happening across the country to celebrate and raise awareness about breastfeeding issues. World Breastfeeding Week “commemorates the Innocenti Declaration signed in August 1990 by government policymakers, WHO, UNICEF and other organizations to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.”

Since the 1990’s breastfeeding in this country has surged with the introduction of The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative and breastfeeding and pumping support mandates in the Affordable Care Act. At the state and county level policy makers have made breastfeeding promotion, support, and protection a priority with all 50 states finally making  breastfeeding in public legal.

In Colorado 81% of mothers initiate breastfeeding (CDC, 2011), and 50.3% are still exclusively breastfeeding at 3 months. But by 6 months only 25.8% of mothers are exclusively breastfeeding. This may be reflective of the early support and education that Colorado mothers receive in the early newborn period. However, the difficulty sustaining breastfeeding in the first six months is reflected in the sharp decrease in exclusivity by 6 months.

Healthcare providers and community and workplace breastfeeding support are integral to sustaining breastfeeding in the long run and Colorado does an excellent job of providing resources to families. However, The United States is the only country in the developed world that does not federally mandate any paid maternity leave (Ingraham, 2018). Many economically vulnerable mothers return to work as early as 2 weeks postpartum and struggle to advocate for time and space to pump breast milk and continue breastfeeding.

Recently, a breastfeeding support resolution introduced by Ecuador at the World Health Assembly drew threats from the American delegation who fought to remove the original language created in 1990 to “protect, promote and support breast-feeding” from the resolution (Jacobs, 2018). Attention was quickly drawn to the influence and financial interest of formula manufacturers, a $70-billion-dollar industry that has seen stagnation in wealthy countries as breastfeeding rates climb. Formula feeding has increased in the developing world as companies aggressively market breast-milk substitutes. This is particularly concerning where babies are more vulnerable to disease from unsafe drinking water, infectious disease, and the expense of formula can be hard for families to afford.

In 2018, there is still much work to be done on a global, federal, state and community level to insure that mothers who desire to breastfeed have access to the education, support, and time needed to do this important work. It is estimated that just by breastfeeding, 800,000 children could be saved every year with an estimated $300 billion dollar reduction in healthcare costs (Jacobs, 2018).

The Women’s Clinic recognizes that where breastfeeding support exists, families flourish and we are committed to helping parents achieve their breastfeeding goals. Our providers practice in a Baby-Friendly Hospital and complete additional hours of breastfeeding education to remain compliant with this certification. In 2016 the clinic formally added private lactation counseling as a service of the clinic with the addition of an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. Breastfeeding education is offered prenatally on an ongoing basis and free support groups and pumping classes for postpartum have been a part of our clinic culture for many years. This year we are excited to donate a gift basket of breastfeeding essentials to the Northern Colorado Breastfeeding Coalition, which will be at The Big Latch On in Greeley on Friday August 3rd at the Island Grove Regional Park.

World Breastfeeding Week is an opportunity to celebrate how far we have come since 1990 and reflect on how to continue the momentum. Breastfeeding is a public health issue, it is a social behavior and it has a measurable impact on not only the health of the baby but on the health of our community and our world. By raising our collective voices in support of breastfeeding we have positively impacted  health policy and legislation and increased breastfeeding rates, and breast pump and lactation support insurance coverage. Maternity leave and maternal mental health in the 4th trimester are the next hurdles to clear, so let’s make our voices heard!

If you breastfed for one day or one year, whether you pumped your milk and fed it in a bottle or worked hard to feed breast milk and needed to supplement with formula or donor milk or if you have ever been an advocate or support person for a breastfeeding person—this week is a celebration of you and the sometimes hard, but worthy work of breastfeeding!

About the Author:
Jennifer Hoover is a maternal-child health specialist, board certified lactation consultant, childbirth educator and writer for The Women’s Clinic of Northern Colorado.

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