Breastfeeding: Are We Answering The Surgeon General's Call?
by Lamaze International
It wasn’t long ago (January 2011), when the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Regina Benjamin, issued her unprecedented Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding. She rallied mothers and their families, communities, health care professionals, and employers to promote, support and protect breastfeeding through 20 practical activities that can make a difference. Her call to action reminded us that everyone can help make breastfeeding easier. Are we answering her call?
Speaking from the Fourth National Conference of State/Territorial/Tribal Breastfeeding Coalitions in Washington, D.C. last month, Dr. Laurence Gummer-Strawn, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, outlined some of the progress we’ve made so far. He highlighted, hot off the presses, the CDC’s annual report on maternity and breastfeeding practices in the U.S. As childbirth educators, we are thrilled to learn that more women than ever are choosing to breastfeed their babies. In fact, the research indicates the largest increase in breastfeeding rates occurred during the last decade. If you’re wondering about breastfeeding rates in your state, have a look at the CDC’s 2012 Breastfeeding Report Card and find out more.
There’s other great news for parents too. The CDC research shows that more hospitals and birth centers offer maternity care practices that can help moms reach their breastfeeding goals. An important factor in choosing a place of birth is finding out if a hospital or birth center is designated as Baby-Friendly, or is working toward it. Baby-Friendly hospitals use evidence-based maternity care practices, the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, which promote, protect, and support breastfeeding. Choosing a Baby-Friendly place to give birth is one of the best ways for expectant parents to advocate for the safest and healthiest birth possible. Research shows that keeping labor and birth as intervention-free as possible helps set the stage for mother and baby to come together successfully as a breastfeeding couple.
As more and more women seek out reputable information and tips on breastfeeding, up-to-date educational tools are readily available. Parents should be on the lookout for a new resource to help support the best start to breastfeeding, called: It’s Only Natural: Mothers Love, Mothers Milk, which will be available on www.womenshealth.gov. It will feature moms openly sharing their real-life challenges with breastfeeding and strategies for overcoming them.
What can you do to answer the Surgeon General’s call? While we may not be in a position to make sweeping policy change or enact legislation to remove barriers to breastfeeding, we can all share our knowledge and words of encouragement for expecting moms. We can give a mother a smile when sits on park bench nursing her baby. We can tell her how lucky her baby is. We can thank dads and grandparents, and even employers, for supporting the breastfeeding moms and babies in their lives. And what about the women who didn’t feel “successful” at breastfeeding or didn’t breastfeed as long as they had hoped? They especially deserve our support and understanding. Until we pull together to remove barriers for all women who want to breastfeed – outdated hospital practices, lack of paid maternity leave, hostile work environments, and negative public perception, just to name a few – we will not be able to answer the Surgeon General’s call.
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About Lamaze International:
Lamaze International is here to help women answer the call. In celebration of National Breastfeeding Month last month, Lamaze International partnered with Babies “R” Us to offer free breastfeeding education in more than 130 stores nationwide. Lamaze Certified Childbirth Educators (LCCE) taught “Nursing Basics for New Moms” during the free event on Saturday, August 4th.
During this one hour session, LCCE educators gave an overview of how to get breastfeeding off to the best start and fielded questions from the audience. This was an opportunity for educators to reach out locally and help spread the message about getting babies off to a healthy start by breastfeeding. We are grateful to the many educators who took time out of their busy lives to volunteer for this event. In addition to this event, Lamaze childbirth education classes share information about the healthiest practices throughout the birthing process and beyond, including keeping your baby with you to encourage the connection for breastfeeding. Find out more at www.lamaze.org.