Many moms, medical experts, and lactation educators have long celebrated World Breastfeeding Month in August. But the United States Breastfeeding Committee has now proclaimed that August is officially National Breastfeeding Month in the U.S.
The U.S. Breastfeeding Committee is an independent, nonprofit coalition of more than 40 nationally influential professional, educational, and governmental organizations. Its mission is an important one: Improve our nation's health by protecting, promoting, and supporting breastfeeding.
In honor of the first official National Breastfeeding Month, I wanted to highlight some of the most important news to come out of the breastfeeding world this year. All of these events played a role in advancing the goals of the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee and the many other organizations committed to breastfeeding promotion.
CDC calls for breastfeeding support in hospitals
The Centers for Disease Control issues a Breastfeeding Report Card every 10 years. And in 2010, the data showed that the U.S. hadn't met goals for breastfeeding initiation and duration rates set in Healthy People 2010. It appears that the CDC wants to see different results in 2020, because in August, it issued a report about Hospital Support for Breastfeeding: Preventing Obesity Begins in Hospitals. The report indicates that a significant barrier to increasing breastfeeding rates in the U.S. is lack of support from hospitals. And studies have shown that babies who were breastfed are less likely to be obese later in life. That fact is a major tenet of Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign to end childhood obesity. The CDC report outlines the 10 qualities of a Baby-Friendly Hospital, which all hospitals should promote to ensure moms get the breastfeeding support and education they need.
U.S. Surgeon General issues Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding
Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin issued an important statement in January: the Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding. It outlined the steps that family members, clinicians, friends, and employers can and should take to eliminate the barriers that keep many women from breastfeeding their babies. The purpose of the document is to provide direction to people who interact with nursing moms who can have an affect on breastfeeding duration rates in the U.S. It was significant that a figure like the Surgeon General was taking a public stance on breastfeeding support. Her recommendations included developing programs to educate fathers and grandmothers about breastfeeding; strengthening programs that provide mother-to mother support and peer counseling, creating a national campaign to promote breastfeeding, ensuring that the marketing of infant formula is conducted in a way that minimizes its negative impacts on exclusive breastfeeding, and many more.
Breast pumps are now tax deductible
The IRS announced in February that breast pumps are now a tax deductible expense. Women will be able to use the money they've set aside in pretax spending accounts to buy breast pumps. For those without flexible spending accounts, the cost of pumps will be tax deductible if their total medical costs exceed 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income. This new policy was years in the making, first proposed by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2009. This was one of the most important developments in the breastfeeding community in the last year -- it's a tangible move toward more mom-friendly legislation that doesn't just promise something, but delivers something to women who want to breastfeed their babies.
Obama orders "appropriate workplace accommodations" for federal employees
The health care reform bill mandated for the first time that employers with more than 50 employees be responsible for providing a private place for breastfeeding moms to pump their milk at work. Obama took the new legislative protections to heart by issuing a memo to the Office of Personnel Management, asking federal personnel officials to draft "appropriate workplace accommodations" for federal employees who are also breastfeeding moms. While he was just following the rules, it was still exciting to see the POTUS take a minute out of his day to write a memo just for moms.
My company, Lansinoh Laboratories, is celebrating this month as well. We were a participating sponsor of the DC Breastfeeding Taskforce's Big Latch On, we sponsored the national Babies R Us World Breastfeeding Week event, and made donations to organizations including Native Health WIC in Arizona; Memorial Regional Hospital in Florida; La Leche League of Southern Indiana, New York, and Florida; Michigan District Health Department, and many more. It is so important that support is given not only to large-scale government initiatives, but also to the grassroots movements and breastfeeding coalitions who are there to help moms and babies every day. Breastfeeding groups and organizations nationwide have united over the past year to help put policy into practice, and we have been proud to offer them our support.
Thank you to the United States Breastfeeding Committee for making August our official National Breastfeeding Month. We look forward to celebrating all month long with moms across the country.
Follow Gina Ciagne, CLC on Twitter: www.twitter.com/GinaAtLansinoh