Guest columnist for the Marion Star, Karen McCleary, wrote a wonderful piece about August being Breastfeeding Awareness Month in Ohio. Now, I know you're going to say, "Isn't is something/something/something Awareness Month too?" I know the Awareness thing has been done to death...but this one is important to me...so you get to read about it here. :oP
If you've been following the news lately, you've probably had a recent dose of breastfeeding awareness concerning the "hoopla" at Wyandot Lake where a mother was escorted out of the park for breastfeeding her baby. It's unclear if the woman was discreet or not while nursing her 4-week-old infant, but reports state that there were concerns other "guests" had been offended. The "exposure" surrounding this event opens the door for an opportunity to educate the public about ways to promote and support breastfeeding in the Marion community.
Governor Bob Taft has designated the month of August 2004 as Breastfeeding Awareness Month in Ohio in conjunction with World Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1-7, 2004. This year's theme is Exclusive Breast, the Gold Standard: Safe, Sound and Sustainable, which emphasizes the many benefits of exclusive breastfeeding defined as providing no other liquids or solids for a baby's first six months of life.
Exclusive breastfeeding is:
Safe - because breast milk provides protection against common illnesses such as respiratory illnesses (colds, flu and pneumonia), intestinal illnesses (vomiting and diarrhea) and ear infections.
Sound - because the nutrients found in human milk are made just for human infants. Breast milk is continually changing to meet the needs of the growing child.
Sustainable - because breastfeeding provides an infant with a source of food as breast milk is always available.
Unrestricted, exclusive breastfeeding is positively related to breast milk production and breastfeeding success and longevity. Babies were born to be breastfed exclusively for the first six months of life. After six months, continuation of breastfeeding with the addition of complementary foods is recommended.
The Healthy People (HP) 2010 breastfeeding goals are to increase the proportion of mothers who breastfeed their babies in the early postpartum period, at six months postpartum, and at one year postpartum, to 75 percent, 50 percent and 25 percent respectively. A survey showed that in 2003 the Ohio breastfeeding initiation rate was 38.5 percent, which was well below the HP 2010 expectations.
Infant feeding decisions can have long-term consequences on the growth and success of our children. Because of increased bonding, improved cognitive development, decreased risk of obesity and many other health benefits, breastfeeding can help ensure a positive start for infants and young children. Think how much money the breastfeeding family can save compared to the high cost of formula. The health benefits of exclusive breastfeeding can be translated into cost savings for individuals, government programs and insurance plans nationwide.
Did you realize that mothers can return to work or school and still breastfeed? With the help of a variety of manual and electric breast pumps, breast milk can be harvested and fed to the baby by caregivers or can be refrigerated and even frozen for up to 6 months. Modern pumps are cleverly disguised to look like savvy back packs or lunch bags and hold all essential supplies, including a cooler area for the milk bottles.
Schools and businesses can assist the breastfeeding mother by allowing sufficient breaks with a private space for using a breast pump throughout the day. A mother should never be told to use a breast pump or breastfeed in a restroom! Would you want to eat in a restroom? Very doubtful!
Marion's WIC clinic, Marion General Hospital and local health care professionals promote and support breastfeeding. Each can provide our mothers-to-be and their families with enough information to make informed choices about infant feeding.
Marion General Hospital and WIC also provide free breastfeeding education classes for the prenatal woman and her family. Once the decision to breastfeed has been made, women are provided a supportive environment to encourage the continuation of breastfeeding. Follow-up in the hospital and telephone calls after the baby is born improve breastfeeding success and longevity. Ultimately our whole society will benefit from having healthier mothers, babies and children.
Local Breastfeeding Awareness Month activities which are planned for August include a "kick-off" walk from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Aug. 7, at Marion Southland Mall, co-sponsored by the Marion City Health Department's WIC Program and Marion General Hospital's Center for New Beginnings.
There will be contests for the best decorated stroller/wagon, "Cutest baby pictures" from birth up to 24 months old, and numerous door prizes. The first 25 attendees to register will receive a T-shirt and special gift bags. Breastfeeding information, well child referral agencies and I.D. fingerprinting for children will be offered by the Marion County Sheriff's Explorers.
The 2004 Breastfeeding Quilt will be "unveiled" at the walk and will start its display rotation around Marion during the month of August.
See if you've got breastfeeding awareness by attending the mall walk and by remembering that "Babies were born to be breastfed."
Karen McCleary is a registered nurse, certified in maternal newborn nursing and is the WIC Breastfeeding Coordinator in c/o the Marion City Health Department. WIC can be reached by calling 740-383-5533.