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Why the state Health Department pitches mothers on breast feeding

Filed by KOSU News in Feature.
April 3, 2013

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The following post was written by KOSU’s Quinton Chandler


For years the State Health Department has promoted breastfeeding and educated hospitals on the best practices and procedures to help ease new mothers into the role. Health Department officials believe breastfeeding means a healthier future for Oklahoma. But, they say mothers need better support if they’re going to successfully meet their breastfeeding goals…

By 2020, Oklahoma’s Department of Health wants to increase the number of mothers who breastfeed to goals set by the U.S. Health Department. Most medical authorities like the CDC, the World Health Organization, and the American Academy of Pediatrics agree breastfeeding is the healthiest feeding choice for a new baby. So do some Oklahoma mothers.

“I feel like it’s natural and the baby gets so many benefits that will last them for the rest of their lives…”

“Breastfeeding actually helps start a baby’s life. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of infant mortality,”

“….Ear infections, respiratory infections, intestinal infections all kinds of GI infections, such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease….”

And the Health Department says with breastfeeding, families could save thousands of dollars a year in formula costs and hospital bills.

“We’re talking about even $13 billion yearly related to this health issue with infants not receiving breast milk.”

Makes since right? Less hospital visits….less hospital bills. And it doesn’t end there.

Rosanne Smith, the Breastfeeding Coordinator for the Health Department’s WIC program, says if breastfeeding numbers go up, families can save something much more precious than money.

“One of the pediatric journals a couple of years ago calculated that more than 900 infant lives per year could be saved in the United States alone if 90% of our mothers exclusively breastfed for 6 months.”

But, recent numbers show Oklahoma is not doing well on the breastfeeding front. A CDC report from last year shows more than 70% of new mothers tried to breastfeed.

But only 33% were breast feeding at 6 months and the numbers kept falling from there.

Why so few? Rosanne says mothers choose formula over breast milk because they don’t have the proper support. That’s something WIC and the Health Department want to change.

“We do a lot of education. Each year we have an annual breastfeeding conference that we open up to health care providers statewide. We encourage our staff to become lactation experts so they can offer more support to our mothers.”

Not to mention WIC’s peer counseling program stocked with veteran mothers.

“These are other mothers that have had experience with breastfeeding and been successful. They become friends with these mothers during their pregnancy. They talk to them. They visit with them about their breastfeeding. We’ve noticed in those clinics the number of breastfeeding mothers goes up tremendously.”

Becky Mannel is Lactation Coordinator at OU Medical Center. She says hospitals play a big role getting mothers on the road towards breastfeeding.

“We’re grading ourselves and even when we grade ourselves we fail.

“And that’s why training for hospital staff and physicians is so important. Because, the care that we provide in the hospital has a huge impact on whether the mother is breastfeeding for as little as six weeks.”

Mannel works with the health Department teaching hospitals what they can do to help make the transition to breastfeeding possible.

“When you think of a new baby in a hospital, where do you picture that baby?”

“You can go see a commercial on TV and we always see the new babies in the nursery.”

“It’s very hard for a mother and a new baby to learn how to breastfeed when they’re not even in the same room.”

Suzanne Barton is author of the book “Bottled Up”. She agrees breast milk is probably the best thing for a baby, but says there’s nothing wrong with formula. She believes when mothers have trouble breastfeeding a lot of the fault lies with the medical community.

“Look at the sheer number of women who are doing everything they’re being told to do and they’re still not producing enough milk. Instead of actually dealing with it we’re just telling them that breast is best and not actually helping them do it.”

Mannel agrees that usually it’s not the mother’s fault.

“First look back at what support did you have, either before you went to the hospital, while you were in the hospital, and after you left the hospital and don’t blame yourself. You need to be mad at us that you didn’t reach your breastfeeding goal.

“They blame themselves; they have no idea that there were so many factors that made breastfeeding so difficult that they couldn’t possibly succeed with it despite heroic efforts.”

Mannel believes with more time and effort hospitals will continue to improve their procedures. Breastfeeding numbers will improve along with the health of Oklahoma babies.

One Response to “Why the state Health Department pitches mothers on breast feeding”

  1. Sarah says:

    Can we assume that your copy editors are on strike? The spelling and grammar errors in this article are ridiculous. Some basic proofreading should happen before you hit the "publish" button.

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