Breastfeeding Awareness Month
August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month. Some might wonder why we here at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center and many other healthcare facilities worldwide are spending the whole month discussing breastfeeding. Here is just a sample of the many reasons we devote the month of August towards lactation education and promotion.
Breastfeeding is immensely beneficial for families. Human milk naturally provides infants with optimal nutrition, immunity, and bonding. Babies who are provided human milk are better protected from various conditions including obesity, ear and respiratory infections, SIDS, and asthma. The lactating parent is less likely to develop certain cancers than a parent who doesn’t breastfeed. Additionally, the risk of developing diabetes is lowered for both parent and child when human milk is provided. Breastfeeding is also the most economical way to feed an infant, and it boasts a smaller carbon footprint than formula manufacturing.
Breastfeeding can feel foreign and difficult for those unfamiliar with the practice. Providing milk to your baby can be quite personal and, for some, even private. While parents may understand how beneficial breastfeeding is for their infant and themselves, it might still seem weird or awkward in the beginning, especially if breastfeeding is not the norm among their extended family. This month helps to normalize this perfectly natural human experience and make it more accessible for expectant parents.
Even those who are familiar with breastfeeding can find it challenging at times. It can take time to feel confident positioning baby to feed comfortably and effectively. Once feedings are well established, maintaining lactation long term, especially after a return to the workforce, can be a challenge. Our Breastfeeding for New Parents class can be an extremely helpful starting point for expectant parents. Learning about human lactation ahead of time can help provide the necessary tools to help reach each families’ individualized infant feeding goals.
Breastfeeding requires a lot of support. Even the most prepared parents will likely find that they need plenty of support. Family members, friends, lactation specialists, other breastfeeding parents, and breastfeeding-friendly workplaces are all crucial in making breastfeeding possible for families. This month of awareness helps foster connections within the community, between organizations, and highlights the role we can all play in helping families provide human milk to their babies.
Breastfeeding Awareness Month helps promote tolerance for all. Believe it or not, this month is important for so many parents, even those that couldn’t breastfed as long as they planned! This event provides an opportunity to share messages of support for all families, especially those that have worked hard to provide any amount of milk to their babies. It is critical that we validate the full spectrum of experiences and emotions that parents may have surrounding infant feeding.
For more information about breastfeeding, visit healthvermont.gov/breastfeeding.
Nicole Troop, RN, is a lactation consultant at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington.