"Baby Knows Breast" - Broome County Babies Consider Breastfeeding as the Best Feeding

BINGHAMTON, NY - The Broome County Health Department's Steps to a HealthierNY program is celebrating world breastfeeding week, August 1-7, with supportive breastfeeding messages for families. The Steps to a HealthierNY program encourages mothers to breastfeed exclusively for at least the first six months of life. Breastfeeding exclusively for six months is the best start to a baby's health, and also helps mom's health too. Breast milk alone is adequate nutrition for the first six months of your baby's life, and breast milk is easy for your baby to digest. Ideally babies should be breastfed for at least one year, as the benefits of breastfeeding will last long after the first year of life.

The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) points out that the United States has one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the developed world. While most new mothers initiate breastfeeding, more than one-half discontinue by six months. The Broome County Health Department's Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC) data suggests that only 63% of new mothers in Broome County are initiating breastfeeding and only 26% continue for six months.

One would think breastfeeding rates would be much higher considering the benefits. Recent studies have shown that breastfed babies are less likely to develop ear infections, respiratory illness and diarrhea, and may have a reduced risk for childhood obesity. Research has also shown that many women know that breastfeeding is the best nutrition for babies. This knowledge has not translated into changed behaviors. Parents do not perceive a real consequence when they opt out of breastfeeding.

"New parents are often discouraged from breastfeeding because many are confused about how to breastfeed while trying to manage hectic schedules of home life and careers," said Claudia Edwards, Public Health Director for the Broome County Health Department. "The Steps to a HealthierNY program and their community partners are conducting a county wide breastfeeding media campaign "Loving Support" to help minimize the confusion parents face with making the most important decision with regards to how they will feed their baby."

Increasing the proportion of mothers who breastfeed their babies is one of the goals of the Healthy People 2010, which lays out our nation's objectives for improving public health. The goal is to increase the proportion of mothers initiating breastfeeding in the early postpartum period to 75 percent by 2010, up from the current level of 70 percent. In addition, the goal is to have 50 percent of mothers continuing to breastfeed at six months by 2010. Currently, only 33 percent of mothers in the United States are breastfeeding at six months.

While sponsoring the "Loving Support" media campaign, the Steps to a HealthierNY program is using some evidenced based program strategies to help promote the incidence and duration of breastfeeding in Broome County. Teaming up with the Broome County WIC program and the Southern Tier Breastfeeding Coalition, the Steps to a HealthierNY program helps sponsor professional lactation education programs, supports peer counseling programs, and provides breastfeeding policy guidance to worksites. These interventions were selected based on research indicating their effectiveness at reaching priority populations, such as low income, African American and working women.

For more information on breastfeeding interventions offered by the Steps to HealthierNY program in Broome County visit www.goBroomeCounty.com. Additional resources on breastfeeding can be obtained by visiting the National Women's Health Information Center on the web at www.4woman.gov or by calling their toll free breastfeeding helpline at 1.800.994.WOMAN. To learn more about the Loving Support media campaign go to www.nal.usda.gov.

Steps to a HealthierNY is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as part of Steps to a HealthierUS, a national program focusing on the prevention of diabetes, obesity and asthma and addressing related risk factors--poor nutrition, physical inactivity and tobacco use and exposure. For more information about Steps to a HealthierNY in Broome County, please visit www.goBroomeCounty.com or call 607.778.3902.

Steps to a HealthierUS Cooperative Agreement is a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) program advancing the HealthierUS goal to help Americans live longer, better and healthier lives. Through funding of community-based interventions, this program aims to reduce the burden of diabetes, obesity and asthma, and address three related risk behaviors--poor nutrition, physical inactivity and tobacco use and exposure. For more information, please visit www.healthierus.gov/steps.