In Kentucky, only 56 percent of new mothers breastfeed their babies. This is much lower than the national average of 70 percent. Now, the Barren River District Health Department is trying to get the word out.
Studies show babies who are exclusively breastfed are healthier than babies who are fed formula.
Beth James, RNC, IBCLC, says, "It's really important to the infants because it helps to give them immunities that protect against infections, particularly diarrhea, pneumonia, ear infections, [and] lower respiratory infections."
Breastfeeding also helps protect babies from certain childhood diseases like diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome, and leukemia; Breastfeeding can also increase performance on IQ tests. Mothers can benefit from breastfeeding as well.
James says, "With mothers, it helps them to lose their pregnancy weight much quicker. It helps to decrease their chance of uterine, ovarian, and endometrial cancer. There's some new research that shows it helps decrease their risk of osteoporosis, which is exciting."
With as many health benefits as it provides, why aren't more women breastfeeding?
James says, "Probably they're afraid they won't be successful. They don't trust that their bodies can produce breast milk. Fear of the pain. A lot of people say I'm gonna be sore."
The best way to promote and encourage breastfeeding in new mothers is to provide pre-natal education and family support.