Let’s Get Behind Breastfeeding — and Share the Love with Moms and Babies
Breastfeeding is an incredible act of love for mothers and babies, creating a bond that can last a lifetime. Through breastfeeding, a mother gives her child one of the very best starts in life, in terms of physical and emotional wellness. Plus, when a mother breastfeeds, she practices “self-love,” because it provides her with benefits too. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breastfeeding provides so many unmatched health benefits for mom and baby that it’s considered the gold standard for infant feeding and nutrition.
Human milk is recognized as the best form of nutrition for infants and is one of the most effective ways to ensure a child survives infancy and has a healthy start to life. The physical benefits of breastfeeding for infants include lower risk of infections; asthma; diabetes; childhood leukemia; obesity; sudden unexplained infant death (SUID), commonly referred to as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS); and many other diseases and illnesses. Breastfeeding can help lower a mother’s risk of postpartum bleeding, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, and ovarian and breast cancers. Breastfeeding is also known to provide emotional and cognitive benefits for a child, potentially leading to fewer social and behavioral problems during childhood, as well as better performance on intelligence tests. And for mom, breastfeeding can reduce stress and improve sleep.
If breastfeeding is so beneficial, why aren’t all mothers doing it?
The positive news is that breastfeeding rates are increasing in the U.S. According to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the percentage of breastfed infants has increased every year between 2010 and 2020. This increase is due in large part to efforts by health care providers, social services organizations, government programs, and other advocacy groups working to increase awareness of breastfeeding’s benefits as well as ensure all families have access to breastfeeding resources and support services.
However, more work needs to be done. According to the CDC, only one in four infants is exclusively breastfed for their first six months (the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics). And in Delaware, the rate of infants ever breastfed is 79.7%, which is below the national average of 84%. The state’s rate of infants exclusively breastfed through six months is 23.6%, compared with the national score of 25.6%.
Many factors may contribute to a woman’s decision not to breastfeed. These can range from physical discomfort or trouble getting her baby started to the stigma that breastfeeding is socially unacceptable. Women may feel they don’t have the time or support from their family or employer to start or continue breastfeeding. Lastly, language, culture, and other factors contributing to health disparities can prevent a woman from accessing the support and resources she needs to breastfeed successfully and confidently.
Support the process, share the love.
Moms, dads, family members, friends, businesses, faith leadership — everyone can play a role in increasing the number of Delaware mothers who breastfeed. Here are three steps you can take to get started:
- Know and protect breastfeeding rights. As a breastfeeding-positive state, Delaware has laws that protect breastfeeding at work and give mothers the right to breastfeed in public or private places.
- Connect with resources. Services exists throughout Delaware to support breastfeeding women, regardless of their income or where they live. Dial 2-1-1 for the Help Me Grow program, get support from the DE Thrives Home Visiting Program, or talk to your health care provider about other resources.
- Build your support network with Delaware WIC. Delaware WIC offers many ways for families to get the support they need. Resources range from breastfeeding peer counseling that connects new moms with local mothers trained to provide them with breastfeeding support to education on nutrition for women, infant and children and much more. Contact the WIC Program for more information:
For Kent County: KentWIC@delaware.gov
For Sussex County: SussexWIC@delaware.gov
For New Castle County: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Share and accept support. Motherhood can become easier to understand if women talk to other moms and experts. Breastfeeding groups are a great support system. Find the support you need from this list of breastfeeding support groups, classes, and resources in Delaware. Beebe Healthcare offers a weekly virtual support group, Latch at Lunch. They also offer a free monthly breastfeeding class (rotating in-person with virtual) on the first Thursday of every month at 5 pm. Private lactation consultations are still available with a Board-Certified Lactation Consultant by appointment only. Call 302-645-3577 to register for the support group or breastfeeding class or to schedule a consultation.
Some medical reasons can prevent breastfeeding. If you are having challenges with breastfeeding, please reach out for support to a lactation consultant. Many local hospitals offer lactation support. If you are nourishing a child with formula and are impacted by the current shortage, this resource page from DE Thrives can help.
Thank you! By supporting more breastfeeding, you can help build healthier families and stronger communities.