21 August 2009

Two U.S. Health Organizations Collaborate To Improve Breastfeeding Rates

Last week, administrators from the U.S. Office of Women’s Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention met at the CDC Headquarters in Georgia to learn from breastfeeding specialists about improving child and maternal health through breastfeeding initiatives. By mid-2010, the agencies aim to disseminate a “Call To Action”- a government plan that promotes distinct procedures and operations to address what is being called an essential public health concern.

“Helping women breastfeed is a no-brainer in the health and well-being of mother and baby,” said Sheela R. Geraghty, medical director of the Center for Breastfeeding Medicine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. “It’s a completely cost-effective mechanism to improve health in the U.S. And, it’s an economic benefit, with less formula costs, less bottles.” (Gardner, 2009, p.1)

Improving breastfeeding rates can be difficult. Many hospitals separate mothers and infants immediately after birth. Furthermore, the majority of women who are of childbearing age are employed at least part-time, and many employers require mothers to return to work as early as six to eight weeks after childbirth. Employed mothers can utilize breast pumps to extract and store breastmilk for their infants while they are at work; however, breast pumps are expensive and many people do not have a private place to pump while on the job. Across the country, mothers in lower socioeconomic categories do not breastfeed as often as mothers with greater access to financial resources (Gardner, 2009).

Providers and policymakers should work to overcome these obstacles: the benefits of breastfeeding are expansive and research-supported. Breast-fed babies have a lower risk for obesity, asthma, diabetes and sudden infant death syndrome (Gardner, 2009). Breastfeeding enhances the cognitive development of young children and their intellectual and scholastic ability in later life. Breastmilk contains high amounts of important fats, such as DHA and ARA. These are very important components of brain structures, and research has shown that breastfed infants have higher concentration of these essential fats in their brain and blood than do formula fed babies (BPNI, 2005).

Fast Facts:

1. In Tennessee, breastfeeding prevalence rates vary significantly by socioeconomic status.

Percentage of TN children (0-5) having ever been breastfeed by socioeconomic status (National Survey of Children’s Health, 2007) :

Children living below 100% of the federal poverty line: 49.4%
Children living at 100% to 199% of the federal poverty line: 57.9%
Children living at 200% to 399% of the federal poverty line: 71.4%
Children living at or above 400% of the federal poverty line: 78%

2. About half of residents in Memphis/Shelby County believe mothers should stop breastfeeding completely at some point when their baby is between 0 and 11 months of age (MidSouth Social Survery, 2008). Meanwhile, The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that there is no upper limit for breastfeeding duration- Breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child.

3. Tennessee code Ann. 50-1-305 (1999) requires employers to provide daily break time for a mother to express breast milk for her infant child, as well as make a reasonable effort to provide a private location, other than a toilet stall, in close proximity to the workplace for this activity. In 2008, only one in five Shelby County respondents were aware of this law’s existence.

Local Resources

La Leche League (LLL) is an international, nonprofit, nonsectarian organization dedicated to providing education, information, support and encouragement to women who want to breastfeed. All breastfeeding mothers and mothers-to-be interested in breastfeeding are welcome to contact LLL of Memphis for breastfeeding help or information. For more information, please visit http://www.llleus.org/web/MemphisTn.html.

Baptist Memorial Hospital for Women’s Breastfeeding Resource Center is staffed by certified lactation consultants who have more than 20 years of experience with mothers and newborns. Staff is available to assist new moms with their breastfeeding questions through one-on-one consultation sessions. For more information, call (901) 227-9620.


Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative. 2007 National Survey of Children's Health, Data Resource Center for Child and Adolescent Health website. Retrieved [08/17/09] from

Gardner, A. (August 13, 2009). It’s time for more moms to breastfeed, U.S. officials say. HealthDay Reporter.

Breastfeeding and brain development (Cognitive development): Information sheet- 9. (2005,
February). IBFAN Asia Pacific/Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI).

Breastfeeding laws. (2009, May). National Conference of State Legislatures: Maternal and Child
Health Overview. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Washington, D.C.: Author.

Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics, 115(2), 496-506.

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