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Sustaining Breastfeeding Together

Every year, the first week of August is World Breastfeeding Week, a time when we come together to promote breastfeeding as the superior choice in nutrition and feeding for babies. This year’s theme is sustaining breastfeeding together. What does this mean? The old saying “It takes a village” applies here. It really does take all of us as a community to support breastfeeding for families in our society.

We all have a role in supporting breastfeeding families. Partners or fathers can support breastfeeding by giving mothers words of encouragement, taking care of baby, and helping mom to get comfortable for her feeding session. Grandparents can provide unconditional support to these families who are making the best decisions for their families. Physicians can support families by providing education before conception, during pregnancy, and the postpartum. Pediatricians can make sure they have breastfeeding support in their office, and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is the premier person to offer help. Doulas can support women in childbirth and postpartum, helping you have an empowered birth and provide basic breastfeeding support and encouragement. Employers can make sure the mother has as much time off work for maternity leave as possible and provide a private space to express milk once returning to work, as well as sufficient work breaks and a positive environment from all staff members. Community support groups are there for families to know they are not alone with the obstacles they face and for words of encouragement. Pharmacists can support the use of medications during lactation and educate women if they are unsure of drug compatibility. Dentists can support women getting regular dental care, and sometimes this means breastfeeding baby while getting a cleaning. Child care providers can receive education on how to handle and store breastmilk, and have a private place for mothers to breastfeeding when dropping off or picking up baby. Toy manufacturers can produce, and advertise breastfeeding friendly dolls, so children grow up seeing breastfeeding as it is; the biological normal way to feed a baby. Travel agencies including airlines can support breastfeeding by allowing for breastmilk to easily pass through security, breastfeeding pods at airports allow for privacy to pump or nurse a distracted baby, and providing encouragement during in-flight breastfeeding. Mental healthcare works can support breastfeeding by ensuring the medication a mother is asked to take is safe and compatible with breastfeeding. The government can support breastfeeding by allowing ample postpartum leave to families, providing easier access to care with an IBCLC, more health care coverage for lactation services. School systems can educate our youngsters on the normal development and purpose of our breasts; to feed our babies.

Together, as a community, we can increase the incidence and duration of breastfeeding, as well as lower some of the health problems associated with not breastfeeding. We can all advocate for women to breastfeed and we each play a vital role in a family’s breastfeeding success. It truly benefits us all in our community and globally.

Published in WNC Parent August 1, 2017.

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