August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month

August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month and the week of August 1st-7th is World Breastfeeding Week. This campaign is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and is celebrated by over 170 countries to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world.

Why Breastfeed?

Breastfeeding is the best way to provide infants with the nutrients they need. The World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. Exclusive means only breastmilk—no formula. Nutritious complementary foods should then be added at six months old while continuing to breastfeed for the first year and beyond.

Babies who are exclusively breastfed for six months are less likely to develop ear infections, diarrhea and respiratory illnesses, and may be less likely to develop childhood obesity.

Mom also receives many benefits, such as a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and ovarian and breast cancers.

WBW 2015 Theme

This year’s theme is Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s Make It Work! The focus is on supporting women to combine breastfeeding and work. Whether a woman is working in the formal, non-formal, or home setting, it’s necessary she feel empowered to claim her and her baby’s right to breastfeed.

This year’s theme actually revisits the 1993 WBW campaign on the Mother-Friendly Workplace Initiative. Much has been achieved in 22 years of global action supporting women and breastfeeding in the workplace. We’ve seen more initiative to set up breastfeeding or mother-friendly workplaces, and breastfeeding and breast-pumping stations.

Elements to Support Women Breastfeeding in the Workplace

Whether you’re a breastfeeding mom or supporting one, there are three necessary factors that determine success in any kind of work setting.

#1) Time

  • Paid maternity leave of at least three months to establish exclusive breastfeeding. When leave is shorter, women need a means to extend their maternity leave period so they can be with their babies, combining fully paid, unpaid or some other form of leave.

#2) Space/Proximity

  • Infant or child-care at or near the workplace would be ideal. Some big corporation do have childcare on site, which is a blessing when it comes to breastfeeding. All a woman needs at that point is “Time” to leave work to breastfeed.
  • If a mom needs to pump, having a private place at or near the worksite is very important.

#3) Support

  • Mothers want to feel supported about their decision to breastfeed. Support from employers, management, superiors and co-workers in terms of positive attitudes towards pregnancy, motherhood and breastfeeding in public are important for successful breastfeeding.
  • Provide women with information about national maternity laws and benefits, as well as maternity policies offered at the workplace.
  • Help set up a workplace environment that makes a woman feel comfortable breastfeeding or pumping milk while at work.

A lot of progress can be made in this area if we all work together to adequately combine work with child-rearing, particularly breastfeeding. Ultimately, our whole society benefits from having healthier mothers, babies and children when breastfeeding is promoted, protected and supported. 

If you want more information, the World Health Organization has some nice information about World Breastfeeding Week. 

In Health and Happiness,

Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods

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