Breastfeeding: Let’s Make it Work
August is National Breastfeeding Month, and I would like to help raise awareness for mothers needing better access to breastfeeding resources in the workplace. In Cincinnati we have much room for improvement.
Allow me to explain. The disparity in breastfeeding statistics across neighborhoods in Hamilton County is staggering. Only 1 in 3 babies get any mother’s milk in one neighborhood, compared to almost every baby in another neighborhood.
One of the largest barriers breastfeeding moms face is returning to the workplace. Part of the new Affordable Care Act requires employers to provide reasonable break time and a private, non-bathroom environment for nursing mothers to express breast milk during the workday, for one year after the child’s birth. The Office of Women’s Health has a database of resources available to help mothers and employers navigate this process, whether the mom works in a berry field, a fast food restaurant or an office.
It is important for employers to support breastfeeding moms because the benefits are vast. Babies who breastfeed have:
- Lower risk of pneumonia requiring hospitalization, even from RSV
- Lower risk of ear infections, diarrhea, and even chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, allergies, and obesity
- Reduced risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
- Premature babies have less necrotizing enterocolitis, which can be fatal
- Mothers who breastfeed also have a reduced risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer and post-partum depression
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. This connection between lack of breastfeeding and infant mortality is significant and has been confirmed in at least one study.
This study linking breastfeeding rates and infant mortality showed a 20% reduction in post-neonatal death (between ages one month and one year) in babies in the United States who received their mothers’ milk. In Memphis, another area with high infant mortality, breastfeeding rates more than doubled in the African American population by 26.9% in 2004 to 58% in 2013, while infant mortality decreased from 17.4/1000 births in 2004 (and a high of 19/1000 births in 2006) to 12.4/1000 births in 2013. (Tennessee Department of Health, Office of Policy, Planning, and Assessment, Division of Health Statistics, Birth and Death Certificate Data for Shelby County Residents 2004-2013.)
We recognize that breastfeeding does not come easily for all women, so we want moms to know about local resources available to help initiate and continue breastfeeding. If you are located within Hamilton County, and are having difficulty with things like latching, pain, or milk supply, the following resources can help:
- Each birth hospital has a phone line for moms to call with questions and holds outpatient lactation visits.
- Cincinnati Children’s Center for Breastfeeding Medicine has clinic appointments at our Burnet, Mason, Green Township and Northern Kentucky campuses, as well as a warm line: 513-636-2326.
- The Southwest Ohio Breastfeeding Coalition has a website with local resources and an active Facebook group
As a pediatrician and lactation consultant, I recently joined the Center for Breastfeeding Medicine at Cincinnati Children’s to help improve the breastfeeding rates and disparities within our community. It is our goal to increase the rate of breastfeeding initiation with all mothers by 20% by providing them with better access to resources and support. It will be a community effort and I look forward to helping make it work for more mothers in Greater Cincinnati.