Everyone can help support a mother breastfeeding during Work World Breastfeeding Week Aug. 1-7

People today know the importance of breastfeeding. While most new mothers start out breastfeeding, many Oklahoma mothers are not able to exclusively breastfeed for six months nor continue for up to 2 years of age as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). One of the challenges they face is continuing to breastfeed after they return to work.

The Jackson County Health Department is promoting World Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1-7 with the theme Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s Make it Work. The goal is to empower and support all women, working in both the formal and informal sectors, to adequately combine work with child-rearing, particularly breastfeeding. Special World Breastfeeding Week activities planned for Jackson County include the following: Breastfeeding Reception on Aug. 4, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Jackson County Health Department, 401 W Tamarack Road in Altus .

Data provided in the 2012 Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) and The Oklahoma Toddler Survey (TOTS, 2013) compiled by OSDH indicates that 85.6 percent of Oklahoma mothers initiated breastfeeding. However, only 34.8 percent of Oklahoma mothers breastfed for six or more months.

Major medical organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Association of Family Physicians recommend that babies receive nothing but breastmilk during the first six months of life, and continue receiving breastmilk for at least the first year and beyond. Like any aspect of raising a child, breastfeeding requires the encouragement from a team of people.

“Many mothers say their efforts to breastfeed are enhanced by having support at home or at work, as well as receiving breastfeeding instruction and education from healthcare providers,” said Jackson County Health Department Administrative Director Karen Weaver. “Since breastfeeding provides significant health benefits for both mother and baby, it is important that family members, clinicians, friends, and employers know how they can help make breastfeeding easier.”

OSDH and the Coalition of Oklahoma Breastfeeding Advocates (COBA) recognize worksites that meet the following criteria for becoming breastfeeding friendly:

* Flexible break times and a private location are provided for mothers to express milk.

* A water source is accessible for washing hands and breast pump equipment.

* A written breastfeeding policy is established.

For information about becoming a Breastfeeding Friendly Worksite, and a list of current recognized sites, visit the Oklahoma breastfeeding website at http://bis.health.ok.gov. For breastfeeding support and information, call the Oklahoma Breastfeeding Hotline toll free at 1-877-271-MILK (6455), or call the Jackson County Health Department at 580-482-7308.

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