People today know the importance of breastfeeding. While most new mothers start out breastfeeding, many Oklahoma mothers are not able to exclusively breastfeed for six months nor continue for up to 2 years of age as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). One of the challenges they face is continuing to breastfeed after they return to work.
The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is promoting World Breastfeeding Week, August 1-7, with the theme Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s Make it Work. The goal is to empower and support all women, working in both the formal and informal sectors, to adequately combine work with child-rearing, particularly breastfeeding.
Data provided in the 2012 Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) and The Oklahoma Toddler Survey (TOTS, 2013) compiled by OSDH indicates that 85.6 percent of Oklahoma mothers initiated breastfeeding. However, only 34.8 percent of Oklahoma mothers breastfed for six or more months. Oklahoma initiation rates have met the national benchmark of 81.9 percent of mothers breastfeeding as established by Healthy People 2020 (HP 2020). However, more improvement is needed to meet the HP 2020 goal for 60.6 percent of mothers to breastfeed for at least six months.
Major medical organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Association of Family Physicians recommend babies receive nothing but mother’s milk during the first six months of life, and continue breastfeeding for at least the first year and beyond. Like any aspect of raising a child, breastfeeding requires the encouragement and support from a community of people. Support from hospitals, workplaces and family members go a long way in helping mothers and babies breastfeed for maximum benefit.
According to national and state surveys, mothers say breastfeeding is easier when they have support at home as well as at work. It is important that family members, clinicians, friends, co-workers and employers know how they can help make breastfeeding easier. Family members can help with household chores and other children, allowing the mother to have time to spend caring for her new baby. Employers can support mothers by being recognized as breastfeeding friendly worksites.
During World Breastfeeding Week, OSDH WIC clinics will be encouraging breastfeeding in Oklahoma by presenting award certificates to mothers who choose to breastfeed. Clinics may also hold receptions for breastfeeding mothers as well as display information that promotes the World Breastfeeding Week Theme.
OSDH and the Coalition of Oklahoma Breastfeeding Advocates (COBA) recognize worksites that meet the following criteria for becoming breastfeeding friendly:
· Flexible break times and a private location are provided for mothers to express milk.
· A water source is accessible for washing hands and breast pump equipment.
· A written breastfeeding policy.
For breastfeeding support and information, call the Oklahoma Breastfeeding Hotline toll free at 1-877-271-MILK (6455).