Mamas on Bedrest: Maine’s “Whenever, Wherever” Breastfeeding Initiative

July 31st, 2012

“I don’t eat in the bathroom and neither will my son.”

A Breastfeeding mama in Maine

Maine is the latest state in which mamas are demanding more tolerance around breastfeeding. Although Maine’s laws state, “a mother has the right to breastfeed her baby in any location, whether public or private, as long as she is otherwise authorized to be in that location,” Many breastfeeding mamas say that they don’t feel welcome to feed their babies when they need to wherever they happen to be.  As a result, a coalition of public health organizations is launching a new initiative called, “Whenever, Wherever”  with the tagline, “Breastfeeding: We all Benefit”.

The “Whenever, Wherever” coalition is seeking the support of local Maine businesses to become members of the coalition and to commit to displaying a sticker in their establishment and educating their staffs about the importance of supporting breastfeeding mamas.

Breastfeeding advocates in Maine, which already has some of the highest breastfeeding rates in the county, are dedicated to seeing that Maine hits the Healthy People 2020 objectives of 82% of babies ever being breastfed and 60% still breastfeeding by 6 months.

Advocates are also hoping that more Maine hospitals will become “Baby Friendly”. The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative is an effort by UNICEF and the World Health Organization to ensure that all maternity centers, whether free standing or in a hospital, become centers of breastfeeding support.

For a hospital to be designated “Baby Friendly”, they must meet 10 specific criteria which show that they support exclusive breastfeeding. These 10 Baby Friendly criteria are:

  1. Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
  2. Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.
  3. Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
  4. Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one half-hour of birth.
  5. Show mothers how to breastfeed and maintain lactation,even if they should be separated from their infants.
  6. Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breastmilk, unless medically indicated.
  7. Practice rooming in – that is, allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
  8. Encourage breastfeeding on demand.
  9. Give no artificial teats or pacifiers (also called dummies or soothers) to breastfeeding infants.
  10. Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic.

While becoming “Baby Friendly” is a time consuming process and one that is quite expensive for hospitals, those hospitals that are striving for the designation believe that the time, effort and expense are all worth it to give babies- and their mamas-a healthy start and a long term health edge.

Breastmilk is well established as the best nutrition for infants, regardless of whether it is provided directly from the breast or pumped and given to infants in a bottle. However, mothers need support and encouragement in order to be able to maintain breastfeeding for the recommended number of months. Initiatives like “Whenever, Wherever” are critical in illiciting the help and support of employers, businesses and municipalities to help mothers with the technical, logistical and emotional challenges of breastfeeding.

Do you intend to breastfeed your baby? How did you overcome any difficulties of breastfeeding if you experienced them? Share your experience in our comments section below.

This blog post is a summary of an article in The Portland (ME) Phoenix (July 20-26, 2012) written by Deirde Fulton.

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