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In celebration of World breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1-7, Mayor Leon Harris has signed a proclamation declaring August Breastfeeding Month.
More mothers in Missouri are breastfeeding their babies, but officials at the Douglas County Health Department are hoping more women in Ava and the surrounding area will choose breastfeeding and breastfeed longer to give their babies the best start in life.
The benefits of breastfeeding are emphasized during August – Missouri Breastfeeding Month. In addition, Worldwide Breastfeeding Week is observed Aug. 1-7.
“Breastfeeding is one of the most important decisions a new mother can make to benefit the health of her child,” said Suzanne Cooney, RN, WIC coordinator at the Douglas County Health Dept.
Health experts agree that breastfeeding promotes a baby’s good health from birth and throughout life. Breastfeeding helps the development of a baby’s brain as well as aid in the growth of the immune system to withstand such ailments as diarrhea, ear infections and infections of the respiratory and urinary tracts.
Breastfeeding also reduces a baby’s risk of environment-borne illnesses, food sensitization and allergies. In addition, babies who are breastfed exclusively for at least six months have a reduced risk of obesity later in life.
Mothers also benefit from breastfeeding their babies. Breastfeeding reduces postpartum bleeding, helps the mother return to her pre-pregnancy weight sooner, boosts her immune system and even reduces a diabetic mother’s need for insulin. Women who breastfeed also have increased protection from breast and ovarian cancers and osteoporosis.
The breastfeeding initiation rate among Missouri mothers has steadily increased during the past several years; however, many women are still not breastfeeding their babies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 67.3 percent of mothers initiated breastfeeding their babies at birth in Missouri in 2004, but only 32.5 percent of infants were still being breastfed at 6 months of age. The CDC’s national Healthy People 2010 breastfeeding goals are 75 percent at birth and 50 percent at 6 months old.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for approximately the first 6 months of life and continue to be breastfed – while food is being introduced – until the baby is at least 1 year old.
“Support from family members, friends and health care providers is important in order to increase the number of women who breastfeed their babies,” Cooney said. For information on breastfeeding, please call the Douglas County Health Department at 417-683-4174.
More information about the benefits of breastfeeding can be found at www.dhss.mo.gov/ breastfeeding or by calling 1-800-877-6246.