Alabama observes National Breastfeeding Month

Staff Report
Posted 8/10/22

The Alabama Department of Public Health has recognized August as National Breastfeeding Month. The ADPH encourages infant breastfeeding as a proven primary prevention strategy that builds a …

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Alabama observes National Breastfeeding Month

Posted

The Alabama Department of Public Health has recognized August as National Breastfeeding Month. The ADPH encourages infant breastfeeding as a proven primary prevention strategy that builds a foundation for lifelong health and wellness. ADPH endorses The American Academy of Pediatrics position that "infant nutrition should be considered a public health issue and not only a lifestyle choice."

Human milk is a unique, living composition, with properties that support the child's developing immune system. The AAP recognizes breastfeeding and human milk as the normative standards for infant feeding. The AAP recommends exclusive human milk feeding for infants in the first six months of life and continuing breastfeeding, with complementary foods, starting around six months, for two years or beyond, as mutually desired. In addition to breast milk, complementary foods should be started around six months.

The known protective health benefits of breastfeeding and human milk are extensive and expanding with new research.

Breastfeeding mothers are at lower risk for excessive uterine bleeding after delivery. Breastfeeding for 12 months or longer is associated with maternal protections against diabetes, high blood pressure and cancers of the breast, endometrium and ovaries.

Breastfed infants are at lower risk for sudden infant death syndrome, and infants (and children who were breastfed as infants are more protected against numerous disorders, including ear and respiratory infections, eczema, asthma and childhood obesity. Human milk is considered an essential lifesaving medical intervention for medically fragile and premature infants.

If the mother's own milk is not available, pasteurized human milk, rather than infant formula, is the preferred substitute for these high-risk infants. ADPH urges parents to strongly consider the significant health benefits of breastfeeding and human milk feeding when making decisions about feeding their infants.

ADPH programs, including the Alabama Women, Infants, and Children Program and the State Perinatal Program, offer services and resources to support breastfeeding families. Alabama WIC participants receive breastfeeding education as part of their prenatal care and after delivery enrollment. Breastfeeding support groups, peer counseling and advanced breastfeeding assessment and counseling may also be available through local WIC clinics. Breastfeeding women receive an expanded WIC food benefit package and remain eligible to participate in WIC for up to one year.

Breastfeeding aids, such as breast pads and breast pumps, may also be available, as indicated by participant needs. The State Perinatal Program supports breastfeeding families as part of comprehensive efforts to decrease infant morbidity and mortality in Alabama. Families can access numerous Perinatal Program and WIC Program resources through the ADPH website, www.alabamapublichealth.gov.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that, among infants born in 2018, slightly more than 70% of infants in Alabama were ever breastfed, compared with greater than 83% across the United States. Less than 40% of Alabama infants were exclusively breastfed at three months, and less than 25% were still breastfeeding at six months.

At both the state and national levels, significant disparities in rates of breastfeeding initiation and duration exist along racial lines, family income range and educational levels; these disparities can lead to adverse health outcomes.

The AAP estimates that suboptimal breastfeeding in a non-Hispanic Black population is associated with nearly twice as many middle ear infections, more than three times the number of cases of necrotizing enterocolitis (a potentially fatal gastrointestinal disorder in premature infants), and more than twice as many child deaths, compared to a non-Hispanic white population. The extensive list of protective health benefits conferred by feeding human milk continues to lengthen with ongoing research.

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