August is National Breastfeeding Month. This campaign is sponsored by the United States Breastfeeding Committee hopes to educate and empower women to breastfeed their babies. This health observance started in 2011 with this proclamation that details the goals and objectives of educating Americans about the importance of breastfeeding.
This year, the United States Breastfeeding Committee is hosting a social media advocacy campaign to raise awareness and promote advocacy action alerts to support breastfeeding. In particular, the committee is focusing on changing the way people view breastfeeding at work, in the community, and among black culture. Below you'll find more details and links describing the focus of each week of the campaign.
Week 1: Breastfeeding at Work
Most women and new moms today work outside the home. Breastfeeding mothers still face challenges in the workplace. Four out of five women start out breastfeeding, but less than half are still doing it by the time their baby is six months old.
One of the main reasons working mothers stop breastfeeding is the difficulty finding time to pump, or express milk, at work. There is a federal law that states businesses should provide a private place, other than a bathroom, that employees may use to pump. This law is for hourly wage earners such as retail, factory, or restaurant workers. The Supporting Working Moms Act (SWMA) would also allow professional women, such as lawyers or outside sales representatives, who are not covered by the law to be able to pump at work too.
Week 2: Innocenti Declaration
During the second week of National Breastfeeding Month, the focus will turn to a declaration promoting breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is the ideal nutrition for babies and offers health benefits for mothers too. Research has shown that the benefits are seen even more if the mother breastfeeds exclusively for the first six months of the baby's life. The Declaration goes on to say that because of that research, all women should be enabled to breastfeed. Efforts should be made to educate and promote breastfeeding to all women, and governments should be a part of making breastfeeding a more mainstream culture.
Week 3: Breastfeeding in Health Care Coverage: Mind the Gaps!
The third week of National Breastfeeding Month is focused on health care. Too often there is a gap between a women's desire to breastfeed and the support they need to actually do it. In order to support breastfeeding, the Affordable Care Act requires all health care plans to support breastfeeding.
The health care plans must cover breastfeeding supplies, such as a breast pump. This is great for women who plan to return to work or will be traveling while their baby is still nursing. Plans may require women to purchase the pump instead of renting it. In addition, the plans must cover breastfeeding support and counseling services without co-payment or deductibles to pay. This means that women can see a lactation specialist to help them begin and continue breastfeeding without additional cost to them. Some plans may require a woman see a specialist "in network."
Some women covered by traditional Medicaid plans do not have this breastfeeding support coverage as part of their plan. There is also a small number of private or employer based plans who have been "grandfathered" in to the health care system. These plans, made before March 2010, are not required to comply with the new law and offer breastfeeding support.
Week 4: Breastfeeding in the Community: Wherever Moms Are!
The fourth week of National Breastfeeding Month is aimed to support and promote breastfeeding whenever, wherever. The goal is to educate the public about breastfeeding in public and encouraging breastfeeding support in airports, sports stadiums, or other public places. The Friendly Airports for Mothers Act is targeting to airports providing designated, private places for women to breastfeed or use a breast pump without public intrusion.
Week 5: Black Breastfeeding Week
The fifth, and final week of National Breastfeeding Month is focused on promoting Black Breastfeeding Week. Black Breastfeeding Week is August 25-31. This week was created to bring focus to the racial disparity in breastfeeding rates. According to the CDC nearly 75% of white women breastfeed, compared to only 58% of black women. Those percentages are even lower six months down the road.
In the black community, there isn't enough breastfeeding support for women to start and continue breastfeeding. Some of that is because the women live in areas where there is no support for breastfeeding. Other reasons could include cultural barriers and lack of diversity in support of breastfeeding. During this week of National Breastfeeding Month the focus will be on discussing the lack of diversity in lactation consultants and to promote and educate breastfeeding as a positive among black communities.
Remember, at Johnson Memorial we have a free breastfeeding class taught by a certified lactation consultant and a nurse. This class is a great place to ask questions, learn techniques, and learn breastfeeding and pumping strategies when you go back to work.