This is shaping up to be another big year for breastfeeding. Coming off the heels of workplace support for breastfeeding moms mandated by 2010's Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, U.S. Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin issued the Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding on Jan. 20.
The Call to Action takes breastfeeding support recommendations to the next level, following the HHS Blueprint for Action on Breastfeeding. The HHS Blueprint was the first U.S. policy document on breastfeeding, released in 2000 by former Surgeon General David Satcher.
Dr. Benjamin's Call to Action expands on the 19 ideas listed in the HHS Blueprint, and presents 20 specific policies and activities that will effectively support, promote and protect breastfeeding. It outlines the many obstacles breastfeeding and pumping mothers face in the U.S. and identifies ways that families (especially fathers and grandmothers), employers, and health care professionals can support breastfeeding and pumping moms so they can meet the duration rates recommended by the World Health Organization and several other organizations.
In a press release, the Office of the Surgeon General highlighted the following as the key takeaways from the Call to Action:
The CDC reported in its 2010 Breastfeeding Report Card that 75 percent of babies in the U.S. start out breastfeeding, but the number drops precipitously after the first few weeks and months postpartum. Six months after birth, the rate of exclusive breastfeeding falls to just 13 percent. A 2010 study published in Pediatrics shows that an increase in breastfeeding duration rates that aligned with official recommendation of the World Health Organization could save the U.S. $13 billion and 911 infant lives each year. Dr. Benjamin's Call to Action recommends the specific actions that will drive breastfeeding rates higher, aiming to meet WHO recommendations and the goals for initiation and duration set by Healthy People 2020.
This document heralds a long-awaited change to breastfeeding-related policy. The Surgeon General now demands that this urgent public health issue gets the attention it deserves. In the two years it took to develop the Call to Action, citizens, community leaders, thought leaders, policy makers, and businesses such as Lansinoh were called upon to make recommendations for the actions that would support, protect, and promote breastfeeding. I made recommendations on behalf of Lansinoh at the CDC hearing in July 2009. In my testimony I stressed that while breastfeeding is the normal way to feed an infant it's not always easy, especially for working, pumping moms who get little support from their family, employers and coworkers.
In my testimony I made the point that while it's extremely important to educate families, employers, and health care workers about the benefits of breastfeeding and risks of not breastfeeding, we won't make much progress without policy that supports these women. And not just through the first days of their baby's life, but the entire first year postpartum.
The Call to Action lays the groundwork for this policy by recommending a number of realistic actions that communities can put to work now. Breastfeeding is about more than feeding -- it is a nurturing, nourishing act that improves not only the lives of moms and babies, but the health and well being of our nation. It's in all of our best interests to respond to this Call to Action.
Follow Gina Ciagne, CLC on Twitter: www.twitter.com/GinaAtLansinoh