LANSING, Mich. – Nearly three out of every four new moms try breastfeeding their babies, but in the weeks and months that follow, many stop. Only 23 percent of moms and babies are meeting national targets and breastfeeding their babies until age 12 months, but local programs are working to improve those rates.
The health department is promoting breastfeeding support programs this August in honor of Breastfeeding Awareness Month. Efforts in the health department to improve local breastfeeding rates include training home visitors as Certified Lactation Counselors, education through the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and a new campaign that has drawn international attention, the Get Real About Breastfeeding campaign, first launched in April. The Ingham County Health Department is the first local health department in Michigan to train home visitors as Certified Lactation Counselors.
“The data tells us that most mothers want to breastfeed, but there are obstacles. Moms and babies need to be set up for success from the beginning, and they need support along the way,” said Ingham County Health Officer Linda S. Vail.
Known health benefits for breastfed children include a stronger immune system and reduced risk for several conditions including asthma, obesity, ear infections and diabetes. For women, breastfeeding can lower risks for breast and ovarian cancers and diabetes.
“The local landscape for breastfeeding has improved over the past few years, and we hope breastfeeding rates will follow suit,” said Vail. “The response to our campaign has been extremely positive.”
The campaign uses photos of local families and has been featured on billboards, movie theater screens, and in a traveling gallery this summer. The campaign touts the message that breastfeeding is legal, healthy and normal.
The campaign was initiated through the health department’s Strong Start, Healthy Start program and is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). It was developed in partnership with Willow Tree Family Center, the Capital Area Breastfeeding Coalition, the Expectant Parent Organization and Redhead Design Studio. For more information, visit getrealaboutbreastfeeding.org.
The “Get Real About Breastfeeding” campaign will next be on tour on Saturday, August 6 at 9 a.m. for the “The Big Latch On,” and Wednesday, August 10 at 11:30 a.m. for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ Breastfeeding Walk. Both events are at the Capitol Building in Lansing.