World Breastfeeding Week: Tips, tricks and benefits

To help bring attention to World Breastfeeding Week, Health Talk spoke with Katy Kozhimannil, Ph.D., an associate professor in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota, to learn more about some of the tips, tricks, and benefits of breastfeeding.

According to Kozhimannil, breastfeeding has both personal and public health benefits. “On a personal level, breastfeeding is associated with maternal-infant bonding.”

Additionally, “breastfeeding is associated with reduced risk of ear infections and gastrointestinal illnesses, and potentially decreased rates of allergies, obesity, and diabetes.”

Kozhimannil explained that in order to ensure proper breastfeeding techniques, a group of global experts created The Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding:

  1.  Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all healthcare staff
  2. Train all health care staff in the skills necessary to implement this policy.
  3. Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
  4.  Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth.
  5. Show mothers how to breastfeed and how to maintain lactation, even if they are separated from their infants.
  6. Give infants no food or drink other than breast-milk, unless medically indicated.
  7. Practice rooming in – allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
  8. Encourage breastfeeding on demand.
  9. Give no pacifiers or artificial nipples to breastfeeding infants.
  10. Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or birth center.

Kozhimannil’s research has also found that social support and workplace support is important for those who intend to breastfeed.

“Our research showed that breastfeeding initiation was near-universal (97%) among low-income, diverse Minnesota mothers with access to doula care.” Doula is a non-medical person who assists a person before, during, and/or after childbirth, as well as her spouse and/or family, by providing physical assistance and emotional support.

This shows that access to culturally appropriate doula care may facilitate higher rates of breastfeeding initiation

As for the workplace, In 2010, the Affordable Care Act passed, requiring that companies with 50 or more workers provide break time and private space for employees to express breastmilk at work.

Kozhimannil conducted research on access to workplace accommodations for nursing mothers and found that “only 40% of women had access to both break time and private space. Women with both adequate break time and private space were more than twice as likely to be breastfeeding exclusively at 6 months, consistent with recommendations.”

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