Wednesday, August 7, 2013

World Breastfeeding Week Highlights Important Health Issue

By Carla Ortique, MD, Chair, and Elizabeth “Kaili” Stehel, MD
TMA Committee on Maternal and Perinatal Health 

The first week in August marks World Breastfeeding Week, which is celebrated in more than 170 countries each year to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies and mothers. While this year’s theme centers on breastfeeding peer counseling, support from the healthcare community can be just as crucial to mothers that want to breastfeed.

Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that breastfeeding rates in the United States are on the rise, thanks in large part to new hospital policies that encourage practices such as skin-to-skin contact and rooming in, a practice in which the newborn baby is kept in a crib in the mother’s room instead of the nursery. This is good news, as we know babies who are breastfed have lower risks of ear and gastrointestinal infections, diabetes, and obesity, and mothers who breastfeed have lower risks of breast and ovarian cancers. However, we still have a long way to go, especially in Texas. While approximately 77 percent of Texas women have breastfed their infant, only about 14 percent are exclusively breastfeeding their infant from age 0 to 6 months— the period recommended by physicians.

TMA’s Committee on Maternal and Perinatal Health promotes these core values:

  • Breastfeeding is critical to good infant and maternal health.
  • Breast milk should be considered the normative standard in infant nutrition.
  • Physicians should receive training on breastfeeding promotion.
  • Formula usage should be considered carefully and with medical guidance. 
  • Hospitals should adopt policies shown to improve breastfeeding rates.
  • Breastfeeding mothers should be supported in public and in the workplace.

To learn more about how physicians can help support breastfeeding, please see the following:

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