Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Evidence says: Education is the Key ~ Breast is Best

The US Surgeon General held a press conference last week (January 20,2011) announcing a Call to Action for the American public for more education, access  and acceptance of breastfeeding.
In her Call to Action, Dr. Regina Benjamin detailed the plans of her "Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding," which includes greater cultural support of nursing at work, at home, and in the community.
"One of the most highly effective preventive measures a mother can take to protect her child and her own health is to breastfeed," Benjamin said during the briefing.
Mother's milk has been shown to reduce diarrhea, ear infections, pneumonia, and asthma and protect against obesity in babies, while it diminishes the risk of breast and ovarian cancer in moms, Benjamin said.
In a report accompanying the announcement, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that "for much of the last century, America's mothers were given poor advice and were discouraged from breastfeeding, to the point that [it] became an unusual choice in this country."
In her document, Dr. Benjamin presents irrefutable evidence about the benefits of breastfeeding including health benefits, psychosocial benefits, plus economic and environmental benefits.  Following surgeon generals before her, Benjamin endorsed a federal policy on breastfeeding. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that Moms begin breastfeeding as soon as possible following the baby's birth. Newborns should be nursed on demand or whenever they show signs of hunger including mouthing, sucking or rooting behaviors or increased awake/alert states. Crying is considered a late hunger cue. Newborns typically need to nurse between 8 to 12 times a day, until satisfied. There are growth spurts at 2 weeks, 6 weeks, 3 months where Baby may nurse more vigorously and more often. This is not a sign that milk production is decreasing. Nursing infants should not be given any supplements (water, glucose water, formula, etc.) unless there is a medical indication. Supplements are rarely needed when breastfeeding is properly accomplished. Pacifiers and bottles should be avoided -- at least until breastfeeding is well established to avoid nipple/flow confusion.
As birth professionals, regardless of if you are a physician, midwife, nurse, childbirth educator, doula or related professional, it is our duty to present the facts about breastfeeding.  Plus, in the event that a new mother absolutely wishes to breastfeed, she must be given adequate instruction for the safety of her baby.  Benjamin acknowledged that research indicates that the marketing of substitutes for breast milk has a negative effect on breastfeeding practices, noting that women who receive commercial discharge packs that include formula are less likely to be breastfeeding exclusively at 10 weeks postpartum than are women who do not receive them.
We encourage you to print out the Surgeon General’s Press Release, Fact Sheet and the entire Report, via the direct links below.  These documents will be further evidence that education about the benefits of breastfeeding will increase the numbers of American babies who are breastfed, and this will unequivocally benefits our society as a whole.

Read the Surgeon General’s Press Release  Click here 
Read/print the Fact Sheet
Download the entire Surgeon General’s Report

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