National Breastfeeding Month: Show Your SupportThe month of August is National Breastfeeding Month. In 1995, the United States Breastfeeding Committee formed in an effort to coordinate a variety of breastfeeding activities across the county. These activities included the official designation of the month of August as National Breastfeeding Month. However, it wasn’t until August 6, 2011, that August was officially set aside in recognition of the importance of breastfeeding. Since then, awareness of the foundational health benefits of breastfeeding have increased, and the ways in which communities choose to recognize and support breastfeeding mothers has evolved. This year, each week in the month of August is designed to spotlight the unique experiences of women of color, with the first week titled, “Protect Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility.” Week two was focused on Native breastfeeding experiences, while this week highlights the experiences of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islanders. The final week is focused on Black breastfeeding. Why is this important? There are many reasons that having a month designated for breastfeeding is important. The top three are related to the health benefits that breastfeeding provides for infants and the families they represent. The top three reasons include:
- Breastfeeding is good for both baby and mother– research has shown that breast milk is the best possible food for an infant for the first six months of life. Breast milk contains the right balance of nutrients, customized specifically for the nursing infant, and boosts the baby’s immune and digestive system with antibodies and good bacteria. For nursing mothers, reduction have been seen in risk factors associated with certain cancers, as well as the all-important fostering of emotional bond with the newborn.
- Promotes lifelong positive health outcomes– Corollary data suggests increases in intelligence and lower risk of chronic disease in breastfed babies; likely the result of the presence of antibodies not found in infant formula.
- Reduced infant mortality rates– from the journal, Pediatrics, if 90% of families exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life, nearly 1,000 infant deaths could be prevented each year.