Florida Healthy Start Coalitions are joining maternal and child health organizations worldwide in observing World Breastfeeding Week August 1-7.
Breastfeeding education and support is a core service available to expectant and new families participating in the Healthy Start program. In 2016, Healthy Start staff provided counseling to more than 30,000 participants.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months of a baby’s life, followed by breastfeeding with the introduction of complementary foods until at least 12 months of age, and continuation of breastfeeding for as long as mutually desired by mother and baby.
According to AAP, this recommendation is supported by the health outcomes of exclusively breastfed compared to outcomes for infants and infants who never or only partially breastfed. Breastfeeding provides a protective effect against respiratory illnesses, ear infections, gastrointestinal diseases, and allergies including asthma, eczema and atopic dermatitis. The rate of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is reduced by over a third in breastfed babies, and there is a 15 percent to 30 percent reduction in adolescent and adult obesity in breastfed vs. non-breastfed infants.
Breastfeeding also provides health benefits for mothers. Mothers who breastfeed are at reduced risk for breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, retention of pregnancy weight, and possibly hip fractures and osteoporosis in the postmenopausal period.
Healthy Start staff throughout the state have taken advantage of training offered over the last three years by the Florida Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) initiative and Healthy Families Florida. Since January of 2015 the 20 Hour Breastfeeding Counselor Course has been provided to 253 care coordinators, home visitors, nurses and community partners. Healthy Start Coalitions have also partnered with local health departments in encouraging hospitals to increase their support of breastfeeding mothers by implementing the Baby Steps to Baby Friendly Initiative. More than 57 hospitals statewide are currently participating in this effort.