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After my daughter was born, I was blessed to have access to one lactation consultant who served a multi-county area. If it had not been for that consultant, who told me I could call her any time of day or night, I probably wouldn’t have lasted long in the breastfeeding mom’s “club.”
I’m thankful there are more of these consultants than there used to be, both in my area and nationally. The CDC’s latest report on breastfeeding says that certified lactation consultants and counselors have increased to 3.5 and 3.8 per 1,000 live births, respectively. Also, the percent of U.S. infants who breastfeed is up to 79%. This is good news, especially coming as the world celebrates “World Breastfeeding Week” However, this good news doesn’t mean it’s time to rest in your efforts to promote breastfeeding. HHS’ Healthy People 2020 initiative wants to get that number up to about 82%.
Here’s one hospital’s story to inspire you: Terrebonne General Medical Center in Houma, LA, participates in the Best Fed Beginnings (BFB) initiative that is funded by the CDC and led by the National Institute for Children’s Health Quality. All infants born at the hospital are now placed skin-to-skin after all deliveries. Initiation of breastfeeding has increased from 40% to 65%. Physicians were trained to provide breastfeeding support and to connect mothers to resources in the community.
Getting all members of mother’s care team on board is key, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO says that World Breastfeeding Week “reminds us that to enable a mother to breastfeed, she needs to be supported by a team that involves family, community, health care professionals with specific skills in breastfeeding support, policy makers and champions.” WHO promotes immediate skin-to-skin contact, as well as initiating breastfeeding within an hour of childbirth. But it doesn’t stop there. “Postnatal care must also be provided, ensuring support for exclusive and continued breastfeeding. Home-based support by community health workers, specifically trained in breastfeeding support, during pregnancy, in the first weeks after childbirth and beyond is also effective.” (For more on hospital efforts to increase breastfeeding, including beyond the hospital walls, see our blog “Hold that chest high! Hospitals lead the way in breastfeeding efforts.”)
As WHO points out, breastfeeding is the most important public health intervention for all babies and young children, and it has a lifelong impact on health and survival. Want help? See WHO resources at http://www.who.int/topics/breastfeeding/en.