The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Georgia Breastfeeding Coalition (GBC) invite Georgians to join Governor Nathan Deal along with breastfeeding advocates, moms and their babies on Wednesday, Aug. 13 at 9:30 a.m. at the Capitol to proclaim August Breastfeeding Awareness Month and to learn about the benefits of breastfeeding.
The Governor's proclamation brings awareness to breastfeeding as a public health issue. Most new mothers in Georgia understand how they and their babies can benefit from breastfeeding and choose to breastfeed their babies, but many are unable to breastfeed for longer than a few days. Support from community, health care workers, employers, and family is important to help mothers in Georgia meet their own breastfeeding goals. Breastfeeding has long term health benefits for both mother and child and is an important part of a healthy family.
DPH recommends breastfeeding as the optimal nutrition for infants. Breast milk is easily digested and contains antibodies from the mother that pass to the infant. Additionally, breast milk protects the baby against childhood illnesses, including diabetes, ear infection, and allergies. Breastfeeding has also been known to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and reduce the risk of obesity as children grow older.
DPH aims to make breastfeeding the cultural and social norm throughout Georgia. The mission is to improve and maintain the health of Georgia's families by protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding.
Through its 5-STAR Hospital recognition program DPH is working with birthing hospitals to move toward a breastfeeding friendly environment that supports moms who deliver at the hospital. This includes training for hospital staff; developing policies to promote breastfeeding practices and education and support for the new moms.
DPH is also helping employers support mothers who are breastfeeding when they return to work through the worksite health program. Employers can do simple, low cost things like providing a private lactation space with a chair and an electrical outlet, and flexibility in breaks for mothers who are continuing to breastfeed.
To protect and support breastfeeding as the preferred method of infant feeding for the first year, DPH’s Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program has trained and accredited breastfeeding counselors to coordinate in-person tutorials with pregnant and breastfeeding mothers.
Carol Hendrix is a WIC breastfeeding coordinator at the North Georgia Health District, and also the president of the Georgia Breastfeeding Coalition (GBC), where she promotes the importance of breastfeeding in Georgia.
“When mothers and their babies succeed in their breastfeeding plan, they enjoy a lifetime of benefits,” said Hendrix.
DPH’s WIC is expanding its community efforts to help mothers breastfeed. There are now 129 WIC peer counselors stationed throughout the state, in every public health district, to support breastfeeding moms. WIC peer counselors are positive role models who can listen and encourage moms who are getting ready to go back to work and want to continue breastfeeding.
“WIC peer counselors are former WIC clients who have successfully breastfed for six months, and have completed the “Loving Support Makes Breastfeeding Work” training program, said Todd Stormant, RD, LD, nutrition operations and education manager for WIC. “Peer counselors support prenatal and breastfeeding moms. They help WIC to not just improve our initiation rates for breastfeeding but help with our duration rates.”
Hendrix is elated that DPH and local partners are making breastfeeding a top public health priority to improve the health of mothers and children in Georgia.
“When mothers and babies are able to reach their breastfeeding goals, they contribute to community prosperity, health equity, and environmental sustainability.”
For more information on DPH’s breastfeeding goals and resources, click here.
To read or share a copy of the Breastfeeding Awareness Month Proclamation, click here