July 30, 2021, by Hannah Halfhill, Health Educator for Fairfield Department of Health & by Pickerington Online staff
August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month, and World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) will be celebrated August 1-7 this year. Breastfeeding has many known health benefits for mother and baby and is widely accepted as an effective strategy to promote positive health outcomes for both mothers and their babies.
Research suggests that breastfeeding is a key factor in reducing risk of disease for both mothers and infants, including respiratory illness, ear infections, allergies, and some cancers. A woman’s early experience with breastfeeding can affect whether and how long she continues to breastfeed and providing support at every level can help reduce barriers to breastfeeding.
To help raise awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted have signed a proclamation naming August Ohio Breastfeeding Awareness Month. For this year’s Breastfeeding Awareness Month, Ohio will adopt the theme “Protect Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility.” This theme focuses on how breastfeeding contributes to the survival, health and well-being of all, and the work to protect breastfeeding worldwide.
Breastfeeding is a personal choice, but communities play a vital role in informing and supporting a mother’s decision to breastfeed her baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and continued breastfeeding with the addition of appropriate solid food for the first year and beyond. The Ohio Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program helps provide breastfeeding support to Ohio families and health professionals across the state.
Women are eligible for WIC during their pregnancy as well as after delivery for up to one year if they are breastfeeding. All applicants must meet income guidelines to qualify.
“Call the office to see if you qualify,” said Amy Gabriel, breastfeeding coordinator for Fairfield County WIC. “WIC encourages pregnant women to enroll in the WIC program because we offer breastfeeding education as well as nutrition education throughout their pregnancy. We help moms work with their doctors and insurance companies to get a breast pump before their baby arrives.”
To contact WIC, dial (740) 652-2800 option seven, or go to myfdh.org to find more information and a printable application.
Breastfeeding moms that need additional help have access to certified lactation counselors at the WIC office, as well as peer support from other breastfeeding moms.
“We have a pump loan program for moms that have to be separated from their baby for medical reasons or after returning to work or school,” Gabriel said.
Fairfield County WIC has a clinic open in Pickerington at 11505 Tussing Road on Wednesdays and Fridays from 8 am to 4 pm.
One of the most important ways businesses and communities can support this work is to help mothers feel comfortable nursing in public. Hungry babies need to eat and Ohio law (Section 3781.55 of the Ohio Revised Code) allows breastfeeding in public. Businesses can show their support by placing a “Breastfed Babies Welcome Here” or universal sign for breastfeeding in their windows and educate their staff about the acceptance of breastfeeding in their establishments. They can also encourage their employees and provide a private space (other than a bathroom) to pump. This will help increase employee retention and reduce medical costs. Hospitals also can adopt the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding as an indication that they are dedicated to supporting new mothers who choose to breastfeed.
“WIC advocates for businesses to accommodate nursing moms,” Gabriel said. “We educate our breastfeeding moms on the laws to empower them upon returning to work. We also like to recognize businesses that are doing a great job at supporting their breastfeeding moms.”
If your employer “goes above and beyond to support your breastfeeding journey”, please let WIC know.
For more information about breastfeeding, Ohioans can call Ohio Statewide Breastfeeding 24/7 Hotline at 1-888-588-3423 or by calling WIC.