GREENVILLE — According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one of the most highly effective preventive measures a mother can take to protect the health of her infant is to breastfeed.
However, in the United States according to the CDC, 81 percent of babies start out being breastfed with 22 percent exclusively breastfed six months later. The CDC reports that Ohio’s 2016 breastfeeding initiation rate of 77.7 percent ranks 38th in the nation. That means 77.7 percent of moms, in Ohio, delivered babies and when straight into breastfeeding their babies.
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) serves to safeguard the health of low-income pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women, infants, and children up to age five that are at nutritional risk, by providing nutritious foods to supplement diets, information on healthy eating and referrals to health care. The Food and Nutrition Service, a Federal agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is responsible for administering the WIC Program at the national and regional levels. Breastfeeding promotion and support components have been included in the WIC program since the 1970s. Every WIC state agency has a designated breastfeeding coordinator, that provides training on breastfeeding promotion and support to local agency staff responsible for breastfeeding. WIC Program Director for Darke and Mercer counties Deanna Schlarman attributes Ohio’s high breastfeeding initiation rate to education.
“Breastfeeding isn’t something that is unusual; it is normal to breastfeed,” Schlarman said. “Many people are supporting the idea of breastfeeding, including hospitals. Many local hospitals, including Wayne HealthCare, are going towards being “Baby- Friendly” hospitals.”
The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is a global program launched by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund, in 1991, to encourage and recognize hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for infant feeding and mother/baby bonding. It recognizes and awards birthing facilities that successfully implement the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding and the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. One of the initiatives involved is “kangaroo care”, which is about 90 minutes of skin to skin contact when baby is first born. Other Baby-Friendly initiatives include: removing crib cards that mention formula, removing formula from the obstetrics floor and educating staff on promoting and normalizing breastfeeding.
“There are cases when formula needs to be given because of medical reasons; it is just not advertised on the floor,” Schlarman said. “We never want mothers to feel they are not good moms if they choose not to breast feed. We want to promote their decision, whatever they do. People are realizing that breastfeeding is really important.”
Another educational piece is learning about colostrum and the size of a baby’s stomach. Colostrum is the first milk breasts produce during pregnancy. Some people refer to colostrum as high – octane milk. It is full of antibodies and immunoglobulins, which not only help protect newborns as they come into a world of bacteria and viruses. Some refer to this as the baby’s first vaccination.
“Colostrum is enough to fill the baby’s stomach, which is the size of a marble when they are born,” Schlarman said. “The milk comes in about day three or four and coincides with the growth of the baby. When you give a two – ounce bottle of formula to a newborn baby, it is too much and their stomachs stretch, causing stomach pain and or throwing up. Some associate that with problems with the milk or formula, when it is simply that their stomachs are stretched from getting too much liquid.”
For more information about breastfeeding, call Darke County WIC at 937-547-1776.