This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.
One of the most effective measures a mother can take to protect the health of her infant is to breast feed. Breast feeding has been shown to help boost an infant’s immune system and reduce risk of health problems, including allergies, certain infections, and diabetes. Many mothers also report breast feeding helps them to develop a stronger bond with their baby, and studies show breast feeding benefits the mother by helping her to lose pregnancy weight, producing hormones that help her to feel more relaxed, and reduce the risk of breast cancer. Finally, there are financial incentives to breast feed – consider breast feeding saves more than $700 compared to the cost of formula for the first year of an infant’s life.
Although most mothers in the United States hope to breast feed, and 75 percent of babies start out being breast fed, only 15 percent are exclusively breast fed 6 months later. Leading health organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization, recommend breast feeding for the first 12 months, but often, mothers can have difficulty achieving this. With support, the success rate among mothers who want to breast feed can be greatly improved and more babies can receive the important nutritional and health benefits of breast feeding.
This year, the National Breast feeding Month “Six Words” campaign invites participants to share six-word stories on what breast feeding means to them. Participants can post a “selfie” photograph on Facebook and/or Twitter, holding a sign with their six-word story using the hashtags #NBM14 and #SixWords. The campaign will focus on a specific system of support each week, with Twitter chats and advocacy tools to inspire education and action to support breast feeding families.
Families, friends, communities, clinicians, health care providers, employers and policymakers can all play a role in helping a mother make the decision to breast feed, and to help her stick with her choice. Breast feeding can be challenging, but with help and support, babies and moms can have a healthy start. Carson City Health and Human Services has WIC counselors in both our Douglas County and Carson City Offices where new and expectant mothers can go for breast feeding support and advice. For other Health Department services, go to our website at www.gethealthycarsoncity.org or visit us at www.facebook.com/cchhs.