Breastfeeding: Let’s Make it Work
August is National Breastfeeding Month, and the U.S Breastfeeding Committee’s theme this year is “Every Step of the Way.” Every family should receive support at every step along their infant feeding journey, with warm and coordinated hand-offs. This ensures the needs of lactating families are anticipated and met, every step of the way.
The Benefits of Breastfeeding for Babies
- Lower risk of pneumonia requiring hospitalization, even RSV
- Lower risk of ear infections, diarrhea, and even chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, allergies, some childhood cancers, inflammatory bowel disease, and obesity
- Reduced risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), a cause of infant mortality
- Premature babies who nurse have less necrotizing enterocolitis, a serious gastrointestinal problem which can be fatal
Mothers who breastfeed also have a reduced risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, post-partum depression, diabetes type II, and hypertension.
Disparities in Breastfeeding
We know that in the U.S., Black babies are much less likely to receive their mothers’ milk compared to white babies. In Hamilton County breastfeeding at hospital discharge is 66.5% for Black mothers, compared to 80.3% for white mothers. In some low income neighborhoods breastfeeding initiation is even lower, and continuation of breastfeeding rapidly declines.
It is also important to note that within the areas in Hamilton County where we have the lowest breastfeeding rates, we also have some of the highest rates of infant mortality. The association between lack of breastfeeding and infant mortality is significant and has been confirmed in two U.S. studies. A recent study from a community not unlike ours, found an association of breastfeeding initiation with a 19% reduction in overall infant mortality (between ages 7-365 days). Breastfeeding promotion, support, and protection should be a part of community infant mortality reduction strategies.
Chain of Support
There are several local efforts to support black families and their breastfeeding journeys.
One example is the successful AMEN Breastfeeding Peer-to-Peer Support group (All Moms Empowered to Nurse). This effort began in 2017 with three Champion moms from Avondale who were trained to be peer supporters of breastfeeding in partnership with Cincinnati Children’s Center for Breastfeeding Medicine. Now the group has expanded and gone virtual, meeting weekly to provide support with additional AMEN Champion moms.
We recognize that breastfeeding does not come easily for all women, so we want families to know about local resources available to help initiate and continue breastfeeding. If you are located within or near Hamilton County, and are having difficulty with issues such as latching, pain, or milk supply, the following resources can help:
- Each of our area birth hospitals has a phone line for moms to call with questions and most have outpatient lactation visits available.
- Cincinnati Children’s Center for Breastfeeding Medicine has outpatient clinic appointments at our Burnet, Mason, Green Township and Northern Kentucky campuses, as well as a warm line: 513-636-2326 and patient and provider resources. The Center for Breastfeeding Medicine also has a wide variety of resources online for families as well as providers. https://www.cincinnatichildrens.org/service/c/breastfeeding
- The Southwest Ohio Breastfeeding Coalition has a website with additional local resources, including support groups.
- We are especially delighted that Ohio now has a FREE 24/7 Breastfeeding Hotline – 1-888-588-3423.
- Donor human milk is made available through the Ohio Mother’s Milk Bank for our most vulnerable premature infants when their own mothers do not have enough milk, as well as for infants beyond the hospital period.
Working together, our community can help families “Every Step of the Way” to meet their infant feeding goals. Please contact me at email@example.com to learn more.