Across the nation, August is noted as Breastfeeding Awareness Month and time is taken during this month to focus on increasing the support around breastfeeding. Breast milk is the best first food for infants and the positives effects of breastfeeding are well documented. We know that breastfeeding aids the survival of infants and helps them thrive, has long-term health benefits for women, yields economic benefits and enhances the wellbeing of all. The challenge for champions of breastfeeding is to translate globally agreed policies to positive action in our communities. Increased rates of exclusive and continued breastfeeding can only be achieved by cooperating and collaborating across sectors and generations. Each year during World Breastfeeding Week (WBW), which normally occurs during the first week of the month, a national theme is identified as a way to pinpoint goals for the next year and recognize successes of the previous year.
In 2017, the theme for World Breastfeeding Week is Sustaining Breastfeeding- Together. Sustaining Breastfeeding-Together reminds us that we all have a part to play in creating an enabling environment for women to breastfeed successfully. We can achieve this by attracting political support and media attention. In Allen County, much work has been done around promotion, protection and support of breastfeeding. Allen County workplaces have been asked to add breastfeeding policies to support mothers coming back to work and desiring to continue to breastfeed. These policies include a place, other than a bathroom, to feed or pump, break times during the workday to feed or pump and general encouragement for these mothers. Over 20 Allen County workplaces have added such policies through work with Activate Allen County and numerous others support breastfeeding through work with other area agencies. Additionally, Allen County OB-GYN offices and hospitals have been striving to increase resources and policies around breastfeeding. The Ohio First Steps for Healthy Babies program was launched by the State of Ohio as a free way for hospitals in Ohio to work towards increased breastfeeding support through a 10 step, 5 tiered program. All three Allen County hospitals have joined this program.
A team effort is needed to make breastfeeding work. While we have made progress in Allen County, there is still work to do. We need to link change-makers at community, country, regional and global levels to call for collective action and impact. All mothers will then be empowered with a satisfying and effective breastfeeding experience. For more information about World Breastfeeding Week- http://www.worldbreastfeedingweek.org/downloads.shtml. For more information about Ohio First Steps- http://www.odh.ohio.gov/OhioFirstSteps. For additional questions about breastfeeding support in Allen County, call the Activate Allen County Office at 419-221-5035.