Mamas on Bedrest: Breastfeeding Awareness and Breastfeeding Initiatives

August 2nd, 2013

nursing infantAugust is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month and August 1-7 is Breastfeeding Awareness week. We are kicking off the “celebration” with The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) launching a new initiative to increase breastfeeding.

In this latest initiative, ACOG is aiming to increase the initiation and the continuation of breastfeeding in “underserved” women. They define underserved women as,

“Underserved women, those who are unable to obtain quality health care by virtue of poverty, cultural differences, race and ethnicity, geographic region, or other factors that contribute to health care disparities, may face greater barriers in the initiation and continuation of breastfeeding.”

Because the benefits of breastfeeding on both maternal and infant health are well documented, and because many underserved women have higher rates of health issues that may be helped by breastfeeding (obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease), ACOG is encouraging hospitals, doctors, lactation consultants and employers to be vigilant about what is put in hospital bags and to make breastfeeding education a priority.  ACOG warns that when formula samples or marketing materials placed in hospital gift bags may be seen by many patients as a recommendation from the hospital and their doctors to formula feed and this is not the case. Counteracting these marketing campaigns with clear, easy to understand information about breastfeeding that is readily available and backed up with accessible education from qualified lactation consultants is critical if changes are to be made.

ACOG is recommending the above changes be made to increase the likelihood that all women will initiate breastfeeding and continue until at least 6 months. Citing information from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ACOG is setting forth the following breastfeeding targets,

Box 1 Healthy People 2020 Targets for Breastfeeding* 

* Increase the proportion of infants who are

—ever breastfed (81.9%)

—breastfed at 6 months (60.6%)

—breastfed at 1 year (34.1%)

—exclusively breastfed through 3 months (46.2%)

—exclusively breastfed through 6 months (25.5%)

—Employers with on-site lactation support (38%)

* Reduce the proportion of breastfed newborns who receive formula supplementation in first 2 days of life (14.2%)

* Increase the proportion of live births that occur in facilities that provide recommended care for lactation mothers and their babies (8.1%)

From the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Breastfeeding Report Card.


While ACOG’s initiative is targeting “underserved” (predominantly minority) women, breastfeeding rates in the US are lower than for other nations overall. As ACOG states in its Committee Opinion, women with less education are less likely to breastfeed because they are more likely to return to work soon after delivery, and are in jobs where they are not able to comfortably pump. This is a HUGE barrier for all women! Hopefully ACOGs recommendations will be heard and heeded by ALL employers.

Reliable, easily accessible, easily understood education around breastfeeding is critical. When ACOG and others have done surveys about why women aren’t breastfeeding, they received erroneous responses such as “it will create dependency in the baby”, “I have small breasts and won’t be able to make enough milk” and other common fallacies. Women need to have ready access to lactation consultants-either on the phone or in person-to explain information and to give much needed support and guidance. This access is critical when a woman is having difficulty with breastfeeding, i.e. difficulty getting the baby to latch on, getting into a comfortable position to breastfeed, having sore and/or cracked nipples and other challenges. Having someone that a mama can talk to, get advice from and receive encouragement from will be the difference between continuing and giving up.

And this support is critical. So many women set the intention to breastfeed, but their efforts are derailed by “well meaning” friends or relatives and sometimes even by their partners! If a woman’s mother did not breastfeed she is less likely to breastfeed and that likelihood goes up if her mother plays an active role in caring for the newborn. Likewise, if a woman’s partner is not supportive of breastfeeding, she is not likely to continue.

I think that as a nation we need to increase rates of breastfeeding in all American women. We need to provide clear and easy to understand information about the benefits of breastfeeding to both mother and baby. We need to reorganize workplaces so that women returning to work can pump in a quiet and private area and have the time to do so!! Hospitals are the first line when it comes to breastfeeding, so they need to educate all staff working with mamas and babies about breastfeeding benefits and to severely limit (ban?? ) formula marketing and samples from hospital gift bags.

What support or education about breastfeeding have you received? Share your breastfeeding experiences in the comments section below! Did your healthcare provider share the benefits of breastfeeding? Does your healthcare provider’s office have lactation consultants you can call when you need assistance? Is your employer supportive of you pumping at work? Let’s tally up the answers and see where the breastfeeding friendly providers, workplaces and family friendly places are here in the US.

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