Breastfeeding, Sustainability, and Community Connection
From August 1st-7th the world celebrates World Breastfeeding Week to bring awareness to barriers that still exist for families and to promote breastfeeding as the perfect form of nutrition. This year’s theme is ‘Breastfeeding: A Key to Sustainable Development’ and coincides with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The theme declares that breastfeeding benefits the environment, community, and future generations. Breastfeeding is not only a health issue for mothers and babies, but a social and an environmental issue as well. Here are four ways that breastfeeding benefits the environment:
- Little to no carbon footprint: breastmilk is completely natural and unprocessed. Artificial baby milk is manufactured in factories and fuel is used to transport the product thousands of miles in order to be distributed in various stores. This production and distribution process contributes to greater carbon emissions which lead to global warming and negatively impacts the environment.
- No waste: breastmilk production is completely based on supply and demand. You won’t ever need to throw away extra milk, packaging, containers or nipples that your baby has outgrown, meaning fewer items end up in a landfill. Most products for artificial baby milk feeding are made of plastic, silicone or glass. Many of these products take hundreds of years to break down in landfills.
- Little to no energy or resources used: the entire process of producing breastmilk takes place completely in-house… and that house is your body! No water, bottles, electricity, soap or formula needed.
- Little to no cost: unlike other forms of feeding that require the purchase of other items, all you need is you and your baby. Breastfeeding is low-cost, affordable, and practical.
The World Breastfeeding Week theme also emphasizes the importance of partnership and collaboration when striving to create change. Multi-sector collaboration is necessary to promote health and wellness in our society. Breastfeeding plays a vital role in creating a sustainable, equitable, and healthy future. It is with this in mind, that breastfeeding should be protected and celebrated to ensure vibrant and healthy communities. I invite you to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week and to join an event in your area. For a list of World Breastfeeding Week celebrations, check out Breastfeeding Events or the Breastfeeding Coalition of Washington July 2016 Newsletter for the most comprehensive list. How will you celebrate World Breastfeeding Week and be a community partner in protecting the environment?
Stand up for breastfeeding moms
As a physician who provides obstetrical and newborn care, I have some control over the messages that my new mothers hear while in the hospital. Fortunately, I also have the ability to write orders which limit formula use for medical reasons only. Nurses can call me, and as a lactation consultant I can also stage appropriate and baby-friendly interventions.
However, many dietitians, community-based healthcare staff, and breast-feeding advocates do not routinely provide in-hospital care. I can only imagine how difficult it is to know that your patients and clients, whom you have worked so hard to educate and prepare for motherhood, may be exposed to contradictory messages about breastfeeding at such a vulnerable time.
As breast-feeding advocates, we hear messages about the potential consequences of just a single bottle of formula, but we have little ability to stop that single feeding at the times when that influence is most needed. However, I do think that there are many important points to remember with regard to breast-feeding promotion in the outpatient setting.
First, in the age of social media, it is important to remember that our clients and patients often turn to the Internet for guidance. Therefore, I would strongly recommend that as breast-feeding advocates we identify hospitals, physicians, midwives, internet groups, and web sites which consistently provide (and demand) baby friendly neonatal care, and make those comments in those places where our patients will see them. For example, does a medical clinic or hospital have a Facebook page? Make comments EVERY TIME you hear of a patient who had a good breastfeeding experience. We can help our patients select providers and hospitals which align with their goals, and OUR goals. Get the word out where our clients are looking.
In addition, as outside-hospital providers, I encourage you to put pressure on in-hospital staff to provide the quality of care that we expect. Perhaps it may be a phone call to a physician or midwife, or the director of the birth center at a hospital, to inquire as to why a patient, or several patients, may have received formula. The specific answer may not be available, or may be limited by HIPPA compliance, but it does demonstrate a vested interest in the well-being of our most vulnerable. Perhaps it may be an annual visit to a local medical clinic to explain the outsides services available to physicians that YOU provide. Consider also giving physicians, midwives, nurses, and in-hospital staff the appreciation that they deserve in very public ways. Never underestimate the value of personal contact. Market breastfeeding. Be deliberate and methodical.
Finally, I would encourage outside providers to discuss with their clients and patients the consequences of registering on various pregnancy and baby related websites and on in-store gift registries. The formula industry, as we all know, aggressively markets to our audience. We need to prepare our mothers for an inundation of formula-related material and samples. We need to tell them that it is OKAY to throw those samples and coupons away. They do not need to maintain a supply “just in case.” We need them to know that formula companies are unfairly playing to their insecurities at a time when they are most vulnerable. We need them to know that WE believe they can nurse their babies, and that they WILL make enough milk. We need to restore their confidence in themselves.
Dr. Jody Cousins is a family medicine and obstetric care physician at Fidalgo Medical Associates in Anacortes, WA. She is a member of the Skagit Breastfeeding Coalition and the recipient of the 2015 Breastfeeding Coalition of Washington MaryAnn O’Hara, MD Physician Leadership Award.
A response to KUOW’s “Why Seattle Moms Still Pump In Bathrooms”
By Chris Gray, Member- Breastfeeding Coalition of Washington
Finding appropriate accommodations for women to pump at work that are suitable for both mothers and employers continues to be a challenge. Though there are no state laws to support breastfeeding in the work place, Federal Law entitles hourly employees to reasonable break times and to a private, non-bathroom space to pump. And it is important to recognize that the Department of Labor encourages employers to provide breaks to all nursing mothers regardless of their status under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Yet even with these laws in place, there is still a lot of room for employer interpretation and too often mothers find themselves with inadequate or inconvenient options. As we continue our efforts to normalize breastfeeding in our communities, how do we help employers–especially those with limited resources and space–normalize breastfeeding in their work place?
KUOW released an article on October 12th titled, “Why Seattle Moms Still Pump In Bathrooms” that brings to light some of the issues mothers face when trying to pump at work. Thank you to the companies and employers who have found a solution that supports their breastfeeding mothers’ need to pump at work. Thank you, KUOW, for prioritizing the creation of a new lactation room and supporting a mother’s desire to continue to breastfeed while at work. It is not impossible to find an appropriate space for pumping that works for both mother and employer; with a little creativity and determination, all employers can create private and secure spaces for their mothers to pump.
Here are a few resources that can help employers create quality spaces or improve the existing lactation spaces to better support their employees.
- Office on Women’s Health “Supporting Nursing Moms at Work: Employer Solutions”: Offers cost effective tips and solutions for any industry setting. It offers creative solutions to meet the time and space restrictions that some businesses face.
- The Business Case for Breastfeeding: Demonstrates how creating a nursing-friendly environment can actually support your business!
- Pregnancy Guidance: A resource page with fact-sheets for small businesses, Q&A from the EEOC, and best practices for employers.
- Employer Best Practices for Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities: Provides employers with information on how to create efficient workplaces that support employees with caregiving responsibilities.
- Local Chamber of Commerce in WA State: Federal and local breastfeeding resources have been shared with Chambers of Commerce to increase awareness of existing resources to support breastfeeding mothers in the workplace.
- Breastfeeding Coalition of Washington: Please join the BCW at our quarterly meetings as we focus on various issues in and around Washington, including normalizing breastfeeding in the workplace.
2014 Legislative Session Week Three – Breastfeeding Friendly Washington
Breastmilk is a baby’s perfect first food. It has special nutrients a baby needs that are not found in formula and changes to meet the needs of a growing child, including giving your baby protection against illness and infection. As a result, breastfed babies have fewer earaches, colds, and allergies and are less likely to experience Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Besides the many health benefits, breastfeeding also helps build a special bond between a mother and her baby.