The Polk-Norman-Mahnomen (P-N-M) Public Health, WIC Program and SHIP is celebrating Minnesota Breastfeeding Awareness Month in August and World Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1-7. This year’s theme focuses on “Empower Parents, Enable Breastfeeding.”

The Polk-Norman-Mahnomen (P-N-M) Public Health, WIC Program and SHIP is celebrating Minnesota Breastfeeding Awareness Month in August and World Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1-7. This year’s theme focuses on “Empower Parents, Enable Breastfeeding.”

As community members, employers and health professionals we can do a lot to support women and families to help mom and baby get a healthy start. When Amy was a few months pregnant and contacted WIC, she received healthy foods as well as a peer breastfeeding counselor who contacted her regularly throughout her pregnancy and after Isaiah’s birth.

Amy states, “My peer breastfeeding counselor encouraged me and gave great tips… I feel that she helped strengthen the bond between me and my son. I never thought I could breastfeed, and even the other women in my family said bottle feeding was easier… I am so grateful that I followed my heart and listened to the advice and support I heard from my doctors and the women at WIC.”

The help and support Amy received from those around her gave her the tools she needed to reach her goal of breastfeeding her son, who has now grown into a preschooler with a healthy appetite!

World Breastfeeding Week raises awareness of the importance of support in empowering a mother to successfully breastfeed and reach her goals. Breastfeeding is one of the best investments in saving lives and improving health. Support from family, employers, childcare, public health, and health providers all play critical roles in enabling a mother to breastfeed.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding is the standard for infant feeding. It provides essential nutrients and antibodies that boost an infant’s immune system, providing protection from childhood illnesses. Babies who are not breastfed are more likely to develop common childhood illnesses like ear infections and diarrhea as well as chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, asthma and childhood obesity. For mothers breastfeeding leads to lower risk of breast and ovarian cancers, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Nine out of ten Minnesota moms start breastfeeding, but three of those nine will stop breastfeeding before 6 months, according to the latest Centers for Disease Control Breastfeeding Report Card. Only about half of Minnesota infants are exclusively breastfed by 3 months. Challenges women face to meet their breastfeeding goals include those they experience in health care settings, worksites and childcare centers.

WIC serves women who may face these extra challenges. Eight out of ten WIC moms start out breastfeeding, but by 6 months only 1 in 3 are breastfeeding. Half of Infants who receive formula in the hospital have stopped breastfeeding by 3 months, while 3 out of 4 of those who receive only breastmilk are still breastfeeding. WIC works to provide information to help women get a strong start with exclusive breastfeeding.

The culture is changing for the better in Minnesota. Growing numbers of health care, child care, employers and health departments are working to address the barriers and make breastfeeding easier for new mothers. P-N-M SHIP has been working with area employers to promote the importance of supporting breastfeeding moms at their place of employment as well as providing and promoting Rock and Rest tents at area fairs and community events.

The Polk County Breastfeeding Coalition has recently introduced to businesses the “Anytime, Anywhere Initiative”, sharing about the Minnesota law that protects women to breastfeed in any location, public or private, where the mother and child are allowed to be.

Supporting businesses have hung a “Breastfeeding Welcome Here” window cling along with signed a pledge in support.

The P-N-M WIC program along with Polk County Public Health supports breastfeeding by offering “Mama’s Milk Connection”. This monthly breastfeeding support groups gathers the third Thursday of the month 6:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m. at the Polk County WIC lobby, 816 Marin Ave., Crookston. To celebrate World Breastfeeding Week, on Thursday, August 1st, Mama’s Milk Connection will host from 5:30 p.m.-7:00 p.m., a potluck meal, games, and fun for the family at the Community Family Service Center (Head Start) Playground, 1407 Erskine Street, Crookston. All who promote, protect and support breastfeeding are welcome to join.

By making breastfeeding easier, mothers can reach their goals and give their babies the best possible start in life. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) recognizes those who take steps to provide accommodations and support for women who would like to breastfeed or continue to breastfeed after returning to work or school. Visit the MDH Breastfeeding Friendly Recognition Program website for more details.

For more information, on breastfeeding, P-N-M WIC services, Polk County Breastfeeding Coalition, Mama’s Milk Connection or worksite lactation services, contact P-N-M Public Health at 218-281-3385.