By Erin Kampbell, Extension Educator—Early Childhood, Nebraska Extension in Madison County
The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action designates August 1-7 as World Breastfeeding Week. This year’s theme is the Warm Chain of Support, focusing on how all people and environments in a mother’s and child’s life impact healthy child development. Breastfeeding provides all nutrients needed for babies and is an inexpensive, climate-friendly, sustainable way to provide the best nutrition for infants. Current recommendations from the World Health Organization encourage mothers who are able to breastfeed to do so exclusively for the first six months after their baby’s birth and to continue breastfeeding for up to two years or until mutually desired by mother and baby. At six months, babies may be ready for the addition of some solid foods to complement breastmilk.
According to the Nebraska Breastfeeding Coalition, 85.3% of Nebraska babies are breastfed at some point and 32.6% of Nebraska babies are exclusively breastfed for the first six months. When promoting breastfeeding, it is important to recognize the benefit of formula as an option for nourishing infants. Formula provides infants with good nutrition to grow and thrive in situations where breastfeeding is not desired or sufficient.
For mothers who begin breastfeeding exclusively, a number of factors influence the decision to switch partly or entirely to formula before six months, such returning to work. Some mothers find it difficult or impossible to provide enough breastmilk for their infants while working away from home and need to supplement with formula.
To help mothers who want to continue breastfeeding, businesses and workplaces can become part of the Warm Chain of Support through the adoption of policies and practices that embrace breastfeeding mothers. The beauty of breastfeeding-friendly spaces is that all infants benefit from them because mothers who are not able to breastfeed or who choose formula are also welcome in the spaces.
The Nebraska Breastfeeding Coalition lists a number of practices businesses and employers can adopt to be designated as a breastfeeding-friendly site. Examples of criteria the Nebraska Breastfeeding Coalition examines when reviewing applications for the breastfeeding-friendly designation are:
- Breastfeeding and milk expression support applies to all individuals including but not limited to: employees, contractors, vendors, guests, and patrons.
- Breastfeeding mothers have access to a private and secure room with a lock, other than a bathroom, for expressing milk or nursing.
- Site offers a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere that allows breastfeeding mothers to nurse or express milk including, but not limited to, a comfortable chair, a lock on the door, a small table, and an electrical outlet.
- All breastfeeding employees have flexible breaks to express milk or nurse.
- Has a formal breastfeeding support policy, guideline, or procedure supporting breastfeeding employees and patrons.
- Communicate with staff and new hires on the breastfeeding support policy, guideline, or procedure.
- Coordinates with all expectant mothers and supervisors on a “return to work plan” prior to maternity leave
The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action encourages individual community members to join the Warm Chain of Support by sharing personal stories of breastfeeding, forming breastfeeding support groups or connecting new mothers to those groups, advocating government and businesses to create breastfeeding-friendly areas and normalize breastfeeding in public spaces, and volunteer to support breastfeeding mothers in crisis or emergency situations.
The health of infants and young children is impacted by their environment and the well-being of the adults in their lives. Creating environments that make breastfeeding easy for mothers is a step in supporting the healthy growth and development of infants and young children.
To learn more about obtaining a breastfeeding-friendly designation, visit the Nebraska Breastfeeding Coalition website at https://nebreastfeeding.org/welcome.html
To learn more about World Breastfeeding week and the Warm Chain of Support, visit the World Breastfeeding Action website at https://waba.org.my/wbw/
Read the World Health Organization’s breastfeeding guidelines at https://www.who.int/health-topics/breastfeeding#tab=tab_2