Encouraging Breastfeeding on the National Agenda

Article excerpt

DESPITE THE known benefits of breastfeeding, many women in the United States continue to experience obstacles, according to a new call to action released in January by the surgeon general.

The new "Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding," released Jan. 20 by Surgeon General Regina Benjamin, MD, MBA, outlines obstacles faced by women and recommends steps to remove them.

Studies have shown that breastfeeding can reduce asthma and obesity in children, among other benefits.

A 2010 study in the journal Pediatrics estimated that the United States would save $13 billion per year in health care costs if 90 percent of U.S. babies were exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life. U.S. health officials recommend that babies be breastfed for at least that long.

However, data reflect a trend away from breastfeeding. While 75 percent of U.S. babies start out breastfeeding, only 13 percent are breastfed at the end of six months, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The call to action cites the challenges women face when breastfeeding, including a lack of knowledge from clinicians, poor support systems, embarrassment, lack of time and privacy to breastfeed at work, lactation problems and the inability to connect with other mothers. …