By Bonnie Myers
World Breastfeeding Month began August 1.
This year’s theme is entitled “The Road to Lifelong Health Begins with Breastfeeding”. What does breastfeeding have to do with lifelong health? Why does the American Academy of Pediatrics now refer to breastfeeding as a public health issue rather than a lifestyle choice?
Cathy Carothers, President of the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA) says that ” Research shows that infants who are not exclusively breastfed for their first six months of life are more likely to develop a wide range of chronic and acute diseases and conditions including ear infections, diarrheal diseases, asthma, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and respiratory illnesses. In addition, mothers who do not breastfeed are at an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer.”
Diabetes and obesity both of which are of great concern in our state are among the chronic conditions. Mississippi is now known for its high obesity rate as well as other chronic illnesses, and has one of the nation’s lowest breastfeeding rates. There are resources and organizations available for breastfeeding education, assistance, and support within our community. Family, relatives, friends, health care workers, peer and support groups should all share in promoting and protecting breastfeeding.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reaffirms its recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months of life followed by breastfeeding in combination with the introduction of complementary foods until at least 12 months of age, and continuation of breastfeeding for as long as mutually desired by mother and baby.
The World Health Organization statement is the same but extends the recommended length of breastfeeding for the first two years and beyond.
Exclusive breastfeeding is defined as giving no other food or drink – not even water – except breast milk. Breastfeeding is the normal way to feed an infant and it should begin within the first hour of birth. Colostrum, also known as “liquid gold,” is already present at birth in the mother’s breasts. This “newborn milk” is thick in consistency helping the baby learn how to suck, swallow, and breathe. Colostrum comes in small amounts at first – the perfect amount for the tiny marble-sized newborn stomach. As the baby learns how to suck and remove milk from the breast, more milk is made in accordance with the law of supply and demand. Early and frequent nursing establishes an abundant milk supply for the baby. Skin to skin contact begins the moment of birth by placing the newborn onto the mother’s body and is the proven and absolute best way to begin the bonding process that leads to successful breastfeeding. Volumes have been written on the amazing attributes of skin to skin contact with the mother such as regulating the baby’s heart rate, breathing, and body temperature. These early important steps to getting breastfeeding off to a good start should be protected and supported by the family and health care workers.
La Leche League is an international organization that provides free breastfeeding information and mother-to-mother support. Local meetings are held here in Louisville the 4th Saturday of every month at the Extension Office on Vance Street from 1 to 2 pm.
Starkville holds La Leche League meetings on the 2nd Friday of every month from 11:00 – 12:00 pm at the Emerson Family Resource Center. Columbus La Leche League meetings are held on the 3rd Monday evening of every month at 6:30 pm at Columbus Air Force Base it the Chapel Annex. The WIC Breastfeeding Program facilitated by the Mississippi State Department of Health provides breastfeeding education, assistance, and support. Free childbirth classes that emphasize breastfeeding as the infant feeding practice are held three times a year (February, June, and October) at Emerson Family Resource Center on the old Highway 25 South. Check out the Mississippi Breastfeeding Coalition web site – msbfc.org – for the latest information and projects for the advancement of breastfeeding support in our state.
Various activities are planned in our area for 2012 World Breastfeeding Week.
Columbus La Leche League will host a family potluck on August 20. There will be window displays at the Winston County Library.
Starkville will host the Big Latch On! at 10 am in the upstairs room of BookMart on Main Street. Also, Starkville will hold one evening meeting on Thursday August 16 (Returning to Work/School and Breastfeeding) and an extra morning meeting on Friday August 24 (Breastfeeding the First Year). Please call one of the La Leche League Leaders for more information about these activities or for any of your breastfeeding concerns. Louisville Bonnie 662-773-3911; Starkville Rebecca 662-546-0236, Jennifer 662-324-1596, Linda 662-324-3944; Columbus Chelsea 662-425-4322, Christina 662-425-4322.