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Breastfeeding: A key to healthy babies

By Bianca Munoz  and Tenika Reddick

Rowan County Health Department

The first week of August is always special to breastfeeding peer counselors (BFPCs). Aug. 1 -7  is World Breastfeeding Week. In 1991 the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) was formed to act on the Innocenti Declaration (1990) to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. In order to facilitate and strengthen support for breastfeeding, WABA imagined a worldwide unifying breastfeeding promotion strategy. At first, a day solely dedicated to breastfeeding was suggested to be added in the calendar of international events. World Breastfeeding Day eventually turned into World Breastfeeding Week.

This year’s topic for World Breastfeeding Week 2016 is: A Key to a Sustainable Development.  In September 2015, the world’s leaders committed 17 goals targeting the end of poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring prosperity. The World Breastfeeding Week 2016 theme is about how breastfeeding is a fundamental component in getting us to ponder how to value our wellbeing from the beginning of life, care for the world we share, and respect one another.

Ecology, economy and equity are the essence of sustainable development. Below are the 17 links between sustainable development goals and breastfeeding.

1. No poverty: Natural, low-cost, affordable. Breastfeeding contributes to poverty reduction.

2. Zero hunger: High quality nutrients, adequate energy with exclusive and continued breastfeeding. Food security prevents hunger, undernutrition and obesity.

3. Good health and well-being:  Considerably improves health of mother and baby short and long term.

4. Quality education: Quality foods and breastfeeding contribute to mental and cognitive development and therefore promote learning.

5. Gender equality: Breastfeeding is uniquely a right of women and should be supported by society. The breastfeeding experience can be empowering.

6. Clean water and sanitation: Even in hot weather, breastfeeding on demand provides all the water a baby needs.

7. Affordable and clean energy: When compared to formula production industrie,; breastfeeding requires a smaller amount of energy. Furthermore, it reduces the need for water, firewood and fossil fuel in the home.

8. Decent work and economic growth: Breastfeeding women who are supported by their employers are more productive and loyal.

9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure: Lactation rooms and breastfeeding breaks can make a big difference. Breastfeeding mothers should be supported by employers, their families and communities.

10. Reduced inequalities: Breastfeeding needs to be protected, promoted, and supported amongst all, but in particular among at risk groups.

11. Sustainable cities and communities: Breastfeeding mothers and their babies need to feel safe and welcome in all public spaces. Women and children are affected disproportionately when disaster and humanitarian crises strike. Pregnant and lactating women need specific support during these times.

12. Responsible consumption and production: Breastfeeding delivers a healthy, feasible, non-polluting, non-resource intensive, sustainable and natural supply of nutrition and sustenance.

13. Climate action: In times of harsh conditions and weather-related disasters due to global warming, breastfeeding protects infant health and nutrition.

14. Life below water: Industrial formula production and distribution leads to waste that pollutes the seas and affects marine life. Breastfeeding entails less waste compared to formula feeding.

15. Life on land:  Formula production indicates dairy farming that often puts stress on natural resources and adds to carbon emissions and climate change. Breastfeeding is ecological compared to formula feeding.

16. Peace and justice, strong institutions: National legislation and polices to protect and support breastfeeding mothers and babies are needed to ensure that their rights are upheld.

17. Partnership for the  goals:  The Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding fosters multi-sectoral collaboration, and can build upon various partnerships for support of development through breastfeeding programs and initiatives. (http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/)

Peer counselors available

WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselors are here to help all moms breastfeed successfully. From Aug. 25-31 there is a new and specific population breastfeeding celebration: Black Breastfeeding Week. For more than 40 years there has been a colossal racial gap in breastfeeding rates. This is why Black Breastfeeding Week was created. The most current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data show that 75 percent of white women have ever breastfed versus 58.9 percent of black women. You may be asking yourself “Why do we need a Black Breastfeeding Week?”

• High Black mortality rate —  Fact: Black babies are dying at twice the rate (nearly triple in some places) of white babies. Increased breastfeeding among black women could decrease infant mortality rates by as much as 50 percent, according to the CDC.

• High rates of diet-related disease — Breast milk, babies’ first food, has been proven to reduce the risks of certain health conditions, conditions most prevalent among African-American children. These include but are not limited to asthma, Type II diabetes, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The finest preventative medicine nature provides is breast milk.

• Lack of diversity in lactation field — Breastfeeding advocacy is white female-led. This is problematic because it unfortunately spreads the frequent misconception that black women don’t breastfeed. This week is to converse about the lack of diversity among lactation consultants.

• Unique cultural barriers among black women — Cultural barriers and a complex history linked to breastfeeding.

• Desert-Like conditions in communities — First, food deserts: desert like conditions in urban areas where women cannot access breastfeeding support. http://blackbreastfeedingweek.org/why-we-need-black-breastfeeding-week/

As WIC breastfeeding peer counselors, we have been at the Rowan County Health Department for one year now, and we really enjoy encouraging all moms through their precious time of breastfeeding. We have experienced a lot throughout our journeys as BFPCs. The message we try to tell our moms is trust your body. During this year we have come in contact with lots of women who think they just don’t produce enough milk for their little ones. But the body produces just what the baby needs, if you breastfeed or pump every two to three hours consistently, have a healthy diet, snack between meals, stay hydrated, and have a good support system.

The first month of breastfeeding or pumping for your child is one of the most critical parts of breastfeeding. This is when we hear moms say these phrases the most: “My baby is not getting enough” and “I don’t see anything coming out” or “When I pump I barely get milk.” This is why it’s very important to breastfeed or pump consistently every two to three hours to get the stimulation to let the brain know that milk needs to be produced. When moms supplement with formula, we inform them that it’s important to pump or hand express while the baby is being given a bottle, to let the brain know that the body still needs to produce milk. It’s the breastfeeding saying we all have heard: supply and demand. As long as you have support, and knowledge, your breastfeeding goals might be closer than you think. The World Health Organization (WHO) definition of breastfeeding is: “The normal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development.” WHO also goes on to say that “Virtually all mothers can breastfeed, provided they have accurate information, and the support of their family, the health care system and society at large.” (http://www.who.int/topics/breastfeeding/en/)

For more information about the WIC Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program or the WIC Program, please visit the Rowan County Health Department located at 1811 E. Innes Street, Salisbury, NC 28146 or Call 704-216-8777 option 4. You may also visit the WIC Web site at www.nutritionnc.com.

Bianca Munoz and Tenika Reddick are WIC breastfeeding peer counselors at the Rowan County Health Department.

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