The Aitkin County WIC Program is celebrating Minnesota Breastfeeding Awareness Month in August and World Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1-7.

This year’s theme focuses on “Empower Parents, Enable Breastfeeding.”

As community members, employers and health professionals we can do a lot to support women and families, and help mom and baby get this healthy start.

World Breastfeeding Week helps raise awareness of the importance of support in empowering a mother to successfully breastfeed and reach her goals. Breastfeeding is one of the best investments in saving lives and improving health. Support from family, employers, childcare, public health, and health providers all play a critical role in enabling a mother to breastfeed.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding is the standard for infant feeding. It provides essential nutrients and antibodies that boost an infant’s immune system, providing protection from childhood illnesses. Babies who are not breastfed are more likely to develop common childhood illnesses like ear infections and diarrhea as well as chronic conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, asthma and childhood obesity. For mothers breastfeeding leads to lower risk of breast and ovarian cancers, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Nine out of 10 Minnesota moms start breastfeeding, but three of those nine will stop breastfeeding before six months, according to the latest Centers for Disease Control Breastfeeding Report Card. Only about half of Minnesota infants are exclusively breastfed by three months.  WIC serves women who may face extra challenges in workplace support and other barriers.  Eight out of ten WIC moms start out breastfeeding, but by six months only one in three are breastfeeding. Half of infants who receive formula in the hospital have stopped breastfeeding by three months, while three out of four of those who receive only breastmilk are still breastfeeding.  WIC works to provide information to help women get a strong start with exclusive breastfeeding. Challenges women face to meet their breastfeeding goals include those they experience in health care settings, worksites and child care centers.

That’s changing In Minnesota. Growing numbers of health care, child care, employers and health departments are working to address the barriers and make breastfeeding easier for new mothers.  Aitkin County supports breastfeeding by making sure all of our county facilities have a space for mothers to nurse or express milk at work.  After the completion of the new Government Center in 2019, all Aitkin County facilities will have a space for mother to nurse or express milk after returning to work.

Aitkin County WIC and other programs such as Home Visiting support breastfeeding families by offering access to a lactation specialist, a peer counselor and in-home visits with a Public Health Nurse.  

For the fifth year in a row,  Aitkin County Health and Human Services, in collaboration with ROTH RV, sponsored a Mother Infant Rest Area at the Aitkin County Fair.  

Comments from our moms:

“Thank you for this space! So nice to have a cool place for me and my baby.”

“What a nice place to nurse.”

“This visit was so divine! Sweaty momma and sweaty baby nursing in the hot weather is not fun. This was amazing! I feel so spoiled and valued. Thank You!”

By making breastfeeding easier, mothers can reach their goals and give their babies the best possible start in life. The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) recognizes those who take steps to provide accommodations and support for women who would like to breastfeed or continue to breastfeed after returning to work or school. Visit the MDH Breastfeeding Friendly Recognition Program website for more details.

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