August is World Breastfeeding Month
FRANKFORT, KY (Aug. 2, 2004) – Babies who are exclusively breastfed are healthier than babies who are fed formula or a combination of breast milk and formula.
“Exclusive breastfeeding provides benefits to baby and mother that just can’t be duplicated or replaced by anything else,” said Becky Derifield, Breastfeeding Promotion Coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Public Health in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
During the month of August, Kentucky will join the rest of the nation and more than 120 countries worldwide in observing World Breastfeeding Month. Special activities are planned throughout the month in different regions of the state to promote breastfeeding and, specifically, exclusive breastfeeding, as a safe, sound and sustainable way to feed an infant.
In Kentucky, about 56 percent of new mothers breastfeed their infants, putting the state significantly below the national average of just more than 70 percent. Among Kentucky women who receive assistance from the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutritional program, breastfeeding has increased nearly 8 percent in the past year, from 34.75 percent in 2003 to 42.63 as of July 2004. The information does not reflect whether mothers breastfed exclusively or how many months they breastfed their children.
Derifield said while breastfeeding for any length of time is very much to baby’s advantage, one objective of World Breastfeeding Month is to promote exclusive, sustained breastfeeding for at least the first six months of life. Exclusive breastfeeding means the infant receives only breast milk and no other food or liquids except vitamin and mineral supplements or medication.
Experts agree that breast milk provides all the nutrition a baby normally needs for the first six months of life. The nutrients found in breast milk are of perfect quality and are easier digested than any other milk or food.
Breast milk also has properties which significantly strengthen infants’ immunity to infections at a time in life when they are most vulnerable. Artificially fed and mixed-fed infants do not have the same immunity advantages and tend to be sick more often with diarrhea, pneumonia and other infections.
Mothers also derive benefits from breastfeeding. Women who breastfeed are able to lose their pregnancy weight more quickly, reducing their risk of breast and ovarian cancer and decreasing their risk of osteoporosis.
When breastfed babies grow older they are also less likely to be overweight.
Governor Ernie Fletcher’s Get Healthy Kentucky! initiative cites breastfeeding and efforts to encourage and make breastfeeding easier for more mothers as key factors in reducing the rate of obesity and overweight in children.
“We’re delighted World Breastfeeding Month coincides so closely with the launch of Governor Fletcher’s Get Healthy Kentucky! initiative,” Derifield said. “Getting children off to the best possible start nutritionally with breastfeeding really can have enduring, lifelong health benefits, including decreasing the likelihood they will become obese or overweight.”