Breastfeeding Nationally Recognized in the Month of August

Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash

The month of August is known as Breastfeeding Awareness Month and serves as an opportunity to bring breastfeeding into the spotlight.

An infant’s first year is vital for many milestones pertaining to their growth. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that women breastfeed for at least the first six months entirely to give their baby the best nutrients possible because breastmilk provides all their nutritional needs.

“Breastfeeding is really important because it is really the biologically normal way to feed an infant,” said Andrea Urquidez, Infant Feeding Branch Manager of the Texas Women Infant and Children (WIC) program. “We consider it optimal nutrition for baby because a mother’s milk is specifically designed for her baby.”

She said the benefits are not only for the baby, but for the mother and even the community because it cuts costs of health care needs by reducing the need for doctor visits.

“The USDA did a study in 2019 that projected if all women breastfeed optimally, and what we mean that is exclusively for six months, there would be approximately $4.1 billion dollars in health care savings,” Urquidez said.

Babies who are solely breastfed are less likely to have complications with their health such as ear infections, respiratory illnesses, gastrointestinal issues, and SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome. Additionally, mothers see a lot of health benefits from breastfeeding.

“Women who breastfeed are in a category of women who have lower risks of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and cardiac issues,” said Urquidez. “Breastmilk is tailored specifically to the needs based on age, based on what mom is being exposed to, and kind of in the world of germs and immunity. We see the composition of breastmilk is different for a preterm baby versus a full-term baby versus an older baby.”

Working moms find it difficult to stick to original plans they had to breastfeed their baby. Nearly 60 percent were reported not being able to breastfeed for as long as they wanted to. Some women are unable to produce breastmilk or have difficulties in doing so. Milk banks, like the Mother’s Milk Bank of North Texas, takes donated milk that is thoroughly tested to ensure it is safe.

Many donor breast milk recipients are for babies who have certain illnesses or who were pre-term. However, Mother’s Milk Bank of North Texas provides milk for healthy babies, too.

One problem that still plagues breastfeeding women is the negative perception surrounding the act of breastfeeding their baby while in public. There is work to be done to support women who breastfeed, no matter where they are.

“I think we’ve come a long way; I really do,” Urquidez said. “I think the benefits of breastfeeding have become a lot clear and I think a lot more women are breastfeeding. I think there’s a few areas where we’re still seeing some stigma. I think one of the big places that we’re still seeing stigma is breastfeeding in public.”

Laws have been implemented to protect breastfeeding women in all states. The biggest complaint is that women don’t feel comfortable feeding their baby this way in public because of the way it may be sexualized.

In Texas, the law states women are allowed to breastfeed or express milk anywhere she is allowed to be, said Urquidez.

Making August Breastfeeding Awareness Month shows the positive progress the country has made towards breastfeeding, although there’s still work to be done.

The theme for this year’s Breastfeeding Awareness Month is Protect Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility.

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