August is World Breastfeeding month and this year attention is focused on what employers can do to support mothers when they return to work. Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s Make It Work aims to call attention to the benefits of breastfeeding for mothers, babies and employers.
According to the CDC, about 77% of babies born in Florida are ever breastfed. By age six months, less than half of babies are still breastfed and by age 12 months, the percentage drops to 27%. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and continued breastfeeding through the first year. Support for mothers who choose to breastfeed is provided by home visiting programs supported by Florida MIECHV. A goal of the initiative is to increase breastfeeding duration among mothers receiving services.
Research shows that breastfeeding offers significant benefits for both mothers and their babies. Breastfeeding lowers a mother’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes, breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Breastfed babies are at lower risk for developing serious diseases and conditions like asthma, obesity, type 2 diabetes, childhood leukemia and sudden infant death syndrome.
More than half of mothers with infants are in the workforce, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Supporting these moms is crucial to their continuing to breastfeed, which benefits not only moms and babies, but also employers. Studies show that breastfeeding mothers miss less work to care for sick infants than mothers who feed their infants formula. Additionally, employer medical costs are lower for breastfed babies.
The HRSA Bureau of Maternal & Child Health and the Office of Women’s Health offer employer information and a toolkit as part of the Business Case for Breastfeeding and Employer Solutions initiatives. In Florida, the state Breastfeeding Coalition provides guidance and resources for worksites and recognizes employers that take steps to support breastfeeding mothers. Additional information and links to state resources are offered by the Florida Department of Health as part of its Healthiest Weight campaign.