N.C. health officials stress importance of breastfeeding for babies, moms
Special to SVLfreenews.com
RALEIGH – The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services is joining citizens and partner organizations across the United States to celebrate August as National Breastfeeding Month.
According to Acting State Health Director Dr. Kelly Kimple, breastfeeding has long- and short-term benefits that include lowering the risk of acute conditions such as respiratory and ear infections, more serious chronic diseases like diabetes and asthma or even Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
"Breastfeeding benefits both mother and child, promotes healthy growth and development and provides a healthy start that lasts for life," Kimple explained. "In addition to the many infant health benefits, mothers can recover from childbirth more quickly and may have a lower risk of breast and ovarian cancer."
In addition to promoting maternal weight loss after delivery, breastfeeding helps foster bonding between the mother and infant and may decrease the mother’s risk of postpartum depression, as well as heart disease. In a 2009 study reported on by the Mother and Child Health and Education Trust, women who nursed for at least 24 months over the course of their reproductive lifespan had a 23 percent lower risk of developing heart disease.
In 2011, DHHS launched the N.C. Maternity Center Breastfeeding-Friendly Designation Program, an initiative to encourage breastfeeding at hospital maternity centers. At that time, 67.3 percent of all new North Carolina mothers breastfed their babies. Most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that North Carolina has made improvements, bringing the percentage of breastfed infants to 75.3 percent, slightly below the national average of 81.1 percent. The report also found that in North Carolina, 47.5 percent of mothers are still breastfeeding at six months, with numbers falling to around 30 percent by 12 months.
"We’ve made some progress here in North Carolina to increase our numbers of breastfed infants, but we still have some work to do to bring us closer to the national average," said Kimple.
The economic benefits of breastfeeding are also significant. Breast milk provides a complete nutrition source for infants and is free and readily available. Families can save more than $1,500 in the first year alone by eliminating the cost of infant formula. Healthier babies and mothers also require fewer doctor visits and less treatment. According to the CDC, more than $2 billion in medical costs could be saved nationwide each year if breastfeeding recommendations were met.
"Although barriers exist for mothers, the benefits of breastfeeding are clear, and so it is important that we continue to promote, protect and support breastfeeding," said Kimple.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC and other national health organizations encourage breastfeeding and human lactation as the normative standards for infant feeding and nutrition.
For more information on breastfeeding promotion and support in North Carolina, visit www.nutritionnc.com/breastfeeding