August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month and the Union County Health Department (UCHD) wants families to know that Union County is a breastfeeding friendly community.
“Support for breastfeeding families is just a call or click away,” said Susie Knox, certified lactation counselor for the Union County Health Department. “At the health department, we can come to you through our newborn home visiting program or families can call or come into the office to get help.”
Newborn home visits and lactation counseling are both free services available to any Union County family with a new baby, Knox said.
She also encouraged parents to join a local closed Facebook group called The Breast Information – Breastfeeding Support Group. Through this group, parents can receive support and advice from fellow breastfeeding families.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that Ohio’s 2018 breastfeeding initiation rate of 81.9% ranks 36th in the nation.
For this year’s Breastfeeding Awareness Month, Ohio will adopt the theme, “Empower Families, Support Breastfeeding.” This theme focuses on the importance of supporting all members of a breastfeeding family as well as working to advocate for breastfeeding supportive environments in and around local communities.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and continued breastfeeding with the addition of appropriate solid food for the first year and beyond.
“Breastfeeding lowers the mother’s risk for breast and ovarian cancer, Type 2 diabetes and postpartum depression and it lowers the infant’s risk for obesity, lower respiratory infections, asthma and SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome),” said Tracy Jennings, Director of the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) nutrition program for Delaware, Morrow and Union Counties.
Jennings added that one of the most important things businesses and the community can do is to allow mothers to feel comfortable nursing in public. She said hungry babies need to eat and Ohio law allows breastfeeding in public.
She said businesses can show their support by placing the “Breastfeeding Welcome Here” universal sign for breastfeeding in their windows and educate their staff on the acceptance of breastfeeding in their establishments.
She also said they can also encourage their employees and provide a private space (other than a bathroom) to pump. This could increase employee retention and reduce medical costs, she said.
“Breastfeeding is a personal choice, but communities play a vital role in informing and supporting a mother’s decision to breastfeed her baby,” Jennings said. “Returning our communities to a breastfeeding supportive culture will take efforts by family, friends, employers, educational institutions, hospitals and businesses.”
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