A Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding
Babies have been breastfeeding since the beginning of time, but the benefits of breastfeeding for both moms and babies have been debated for many years. On January 20 of this year, however, the Office of the Surgeon General released its first ever "Call to Action" to support breastfeeding. The Surgeon General, Dr. Regina M. Benjamin, refers to the numerous benefits associated with breastfeeding in the Call to Action, as well as outlining guidelines for families, communities, healthcare professionals, and employers to help remove the obstacles that women face who want to breastfeed.
According to the Call to Action, babies who are breastfed rather than formula-fed are protected from infections and illnesses that include diarrhea, ear infections, and pneumonia. They are also less likely to become obese and develop asthma. Unfortunately, as stated in the Surgeon General's report, there are many obstacles a mother faces when trying to breastfeed. Dr. Benjamin's press release states, "Many mothers who attempt to breastfeed say several factors impede their efforts such as a lack of support at home; absence of family members who have experience with breastfeeding; a lack of breastfeeding information from health care clinicians; a lack of time and privacy to breastfeed or express milk at the workplace; and an inability to connect with other breastfeeding mothers in their communities." The report goes on to detail guidelines and recommendations that will support a woman's choice to breastfeed whether in the home, workplace, or public arena.
Following in the Call to Action's footsteps, a new policy update for all California hospitals was released. The report entitled "One Hospital at a Time," co-authored by the California WIC association and the UC Davis Human Lactation Center, discusses how there is a disparity between breastfeeding rates in women who give birth in hospitals that mainly serve low income families versus women who give birth in hospitals serving a more affluent population. The policy update hopes to remove this disparity by encouraging hospitals to become "Baby Friendly." This means hospital staff will be proactive in assisting mothers to breastfeed after giving birth by practicing the "10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding" (see below).
With the benefits of breastfeeding now being undeniable, the Surgeon General's Call to Action and California's new hospital policy update will undoubtedly increase awareness and acceptance for the practice of breastfeeding. For more information on how to support breastfeeding in your workplace and for local resources, visit the Kern County Breastfeeding Coalition's website at www.californiabreastfeeding.org.
The 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding:
Maintain a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.
Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding
Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth.
Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation even if they are separated from their infants.
Give infants no food or drink other than breast milk, unless medically indicated.
Practice "rooming in" – allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
Encourage unrestricted breastfeeding
Give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants.
Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic.
*Source: Protecting, Promoting, and Supporting Breastfeeding: The Special Role of Maternity Services, a Joint WHO/UNICEF Statement. Geneva, World Health Organization, 1989.