What Others Can Do To Promote a Breastfeeding Friendly Florida: It Goes Beyond Mother and Child
August 21, 2014
Every woman’s journey to motherhood is different, but one of the first decisions a new mom makes is how to feed her child. When you choose to breastfeed, you make an investment in your baby’s future by giving a healthy start that will last a lifetime. August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month and Healthiest Weight Florida, in collaboration with Women Infants and Children (WIC), Healthy Start, the Florida Child Care Food Program and the Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention, is announcing its own August Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign.
The purpose of the campaign is to promote breastfeeding as a vital health activity as well as encourage breastfeeding friendly communities throughout the state of Florida. Breastfeeding is the preferred method of feeding infants and is supported by the Florida Department of Health as well as major health organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Infant feeding is one of the most important decisions a family can make. Research shows that babies who receive only breast milk for the first six months of life are less likely to develop a wide range of chronic and acute diseases including ear infections, diarrheal diseases, asthma, obesity, and respiratory illnesses. Researchers also found a 60 percent reduction in the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) for infants who received any amount of breast milk for any period of time. Exclusive breastfeeding bumps the risk reduction rate up to 73 percent.
Mothers benefit from breastfeeding with a decreased risk for breast and ovarian cancers. The Florida Department of Health, as well as medical organizations such as the WHO and the American Academy of Pediatrics, strongly recommends that babies exclusively breastfeed for about the first six months of life and continue to breastfeed for at least one to two years to achieve optimal health.
Employers, child care providers, hospitals and health care professionals also play a vital role in promoting a breastfeeding-friendly Florida.
Employers must abide by the law and support breastfeeding at the worksite. It is the employer’s responsibility to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child up to one year of age as well as provide a place other than the bathroom that is shielded from view for the employee to express breast milk. Employers may also provide additional support through lactation programs. These programs can reduce turnover, cut rates of absenteeism, boost morale and productivity, and reduce health care costs. Lactation programs are also cost effective, showing a $3 return for every $1 invested.
For eligible employers, the Florida Breastfeeding Coalition offers the Breastfeeding Friendly Employer Award, a recognition already held by 66 businesses in the state of Florida. To find out if your worksite is eligible for the award, please visit www.flbreastfeeding.org/employerprogram.htm.
Children aged 0–4 years spend an average of 36 hours per week in some form of child care. According to the document The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding (2011), released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, returning to work and placing a child in child care poses a significant barrier to breastfeeding. However, research shows when child care providers support breastfeeding, mothers are more likely to continue breastfeeding when returning to work or school, and for longer durations. Child care facilities can support breastfeeding by creating a quiet, comfortable space for nursing mothers; storing and feeding expressed breast milk; and providing training on supporting breastfeeding mothers.
The CDC’s Guide to Strategies to Support Breastfeeding Mothers and Babies, (2013) recommends six action steps, including recognizing child care providers that meet high standards for breastfeeding support and training child care providers how to support breastfeeding mothers and feed expressed breast milk to infants.
The Bureau of Child Care Food Programs (CCFP) has recognized Breastfeeding Friendly CCFP Facilities since January 2012. The CCFP recently partnered with the Florida Breastfeeding Coalition (FBC) to offer a recognition to all child care facilities in the state, regardless of whether they participate in the CCFP or not. An online training module, Creating a Breastfeeding Friendly Child Care Facility is available on the CCFP and FBC websites. Visit http://www.floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services/childrens-health/child-care-food-program/nutrition/feeding-infants.html#breastfeeding for more information.
Hospitals and Health Care Professionals
Hospitals and health care professionals who serve pregnant women, children and new moms also play a significant role in supporting breastfeeding families.
Florida’s WIC Program provides a variety of services including breastfeeding support. Many of Florida’s local county health departments have monthly Breastfeeding Support Group meetings where mothers and peer counselors are able to discuss a variety of topics as well as monitor a baby’s weight gain.
Furthermore, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Practice Physicians, and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), have policy statements and clinical guidelines for providers to best support mothers and babies.
There are two awards available to hospitals that strive to promote breastfeeding in their facilities, the Baby Friendly Award given by Baby-Friendly USA and the Florida Breastfeeding Coalition’s Maternity Care Award. The Baby Friendly Award is received by hospitals that meet the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding criteria listed on the Baby-Friendly USA website.
The FBC’s Maternity Care award is conducted by assigning a star-ranking from 1–5 to hospitals that are committed to improving maternity policy, practice in infant nutrition, and care in their institution. Only hospitals that apply to Baby-Friendly USA and receive the Baby-Friendly Hospital designation will be awarded five stars by the Florida Breastfeeding Coalition.
More information and resources on breastfeeding visit www.HealthiestWeightFL.com/bf. Healthiest Weight Florida is a public-private collaboration bringing together state agencies, not-for-profit organizations, businesses, and entire communities to help Florida’s children and adults make consistent, informed choices about healthy eating and active living.