Why breastfeed? Learn the benefits & find support
August is National Breastfeeding Month, and this year it’s more important than ever to fight for equal access to breastfeeding resources and support…
2020’s National Breastfeeding Month is here!
With the theme of ‘Many Voices United,’ the United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) believes that it’s more important than ever to identify and implement policy and systems changes to ensure that every family that chooses breastfeeding has the support and resources they need to succeed.
Now that’s something we want to get on board with!
In this article, we’ll go over:
- Breastfeeding statistics in the US
- The benefits of breastfeeding
- How you can help support equal access to breastfeeding
Scroll down to learn more.
Breastfeeding statistics in the US
While 83% of American infants are breastfed at birth, only 25% are still exclusively breastfed at six months of age. Many mamas want to breastfeed, but they often have no choice but to give up when faced with a series of insurmountable challenges such as having to return to work or lack of access to pumping equipment and/or mental health counseling.
According to the USBC, unequal access to policies and environments that support breastfeeding have created persistent racial and ethnic disparities in breastfeeding initiation and duration.
This is particularly frustrating because:
Studies show that breastfeeding decreases the rate of infectious diseases and the risk of death in Black infants.
It reduces the rate of breast cancer in Black women, who are disproportionally affected by an aggressive subtype known as triple-negative breast cancer.
Despite these advantages, Black women are 2.5 times less likely to breastfeed than white women.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, racial and ethnic disparities in breastfeeding have been exacerbated. A hospital in Albuquerque implemented a secret policy that involved testing pregnant women who appeared to be Native American for coronavirus whether or not they had any symptoms. The hospital administration tried to justify this policy by saying that these women came from COVID-19 hotspots, but non-Native women from hotspots weren’t automatically subjected to testing.
The result of the hospital’s actions: In some cases, these Native American women were separated from their newborn babies because their test results hadn’t come back yet, depriving them of crucial bonding and breastfeeding initiation time. These stolen moments could have lifelong effects on those mothers and babies.
It’s true that a lot of progress has been made in the quest to #NormalizeBreastfeeding and provide women across the country with the tools and resources they need to safely nurse their babies, but sadly, we still have work to do.
The benefits of breastfeeding
It’s no secret that nursing has a range of health benefits for mothers and babies, but did you know that it’s also good for the planet and the economy?
Check out these fast facts about breastfeeding:
- Nursing lowers babies’ risk of illnesses such as asthma, ear infections, eczema, lower respiratory infections, vomiting and diarrhea, childhood leukemia, childhood obesity, type 2 diabetes and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
- If 90% of families breastfed exclusively for six months, nearly 1000 infant deaths could be prevented each year.
- Breastfeeding helps mothers heal from childbirth faster and lowers their risk of type 2 diabetes, ovarian cancer and certain types of breast cancer.
- If families were able to meet the current medical recommendations for breastfeeding, it would save the U.S. economy more than $13 billion per year in pediatric health costs and premature deaths.
- Breastfeeding is beneficial to the environment because it doesn’t require any energy to produce or transport and it doesn’t create any waste. Nursing for six months saves approximately 95 – 153kg CO2 equivalent per baby compared with formula feeding.
Not all women have the opportunity or the desire to breastfeed, but it’s crucial for all of us to take action to ensure that the families who do wish to nurse have the support they need to succeed and stick to it.
How you can help support equal access to breastfeeding
Here are three important steps you can take to support equal access to breastfeeding for National Breastfeeding Month #NBM20:
#1 Ask Congress to invest in breastfeeding programs
Get in touch with your Members of Congress here to let them know that you support federal funding for breastfeeding programs, including:
- The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Hospital Promoting Breastfeeding program
- The CDC’s Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) program that enable communities to plan and carry out local, culturally appropriate programs, including breastfeeding support programs, for African Americans, American Indians, Hispanics/Latinos, Asian Americans, Alaska Natives and Pacific Islanders
#2 Connect with local breastfeeding advocates
Find your local breastfeeding coalition here and connect with members in your area. During COVID-19, many chapters are hosting virtual meet-ups.
#3 Stay connected on social media
Here’s the schedule of events for National Breastfeeding Month and the associated websites and social pages. Follow them to stay abreast of national and local #NBM20 events and to find out how you can take action.
The USBC Facebook page is a great resource for all things National Breastfeeding Month #NBM20.
- Week 1 (August 1-7): World Breastfeeding Week: Support Breastfeeding for a Healthier Planet #WBW20
- Week 2 (August 9-15): Native Breastfeeding Week
- Week 3 (August 16-24): Spotlight on Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies
- Week 4 (August 25-31): Black Breastfeeding Week: Revive. Restore. Reclaim