World Breastfeeding Week provides an opportunity to highlight the benefits of breastfeeding and to encourage everyone to support mothers who want to breastfeed.
One of the most highly effective preventive measures a mother can take to protect the health of her infant and herself is to breastfeed. It protects babies from many infections and illnesses, such as diarrhea and pneumonia. Children who have been breastfed have lower rates of childhood obesity. Mothers who breastfeed have a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
The decision to breastfeed is a personal one, and a mother should not be made to feel guilty if she cannot or chooses not to breastfeed. But given the importance of breastfeeding for the health and well-being of mothers and children, we need to do what we can to help mothers who want to breastfeed to do so successfully.
Earlier this year, I released the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding which outlines steps that can be taken to remove some of the obstacles faced by women who want to breastfeed their babies.
The Affordable Care Act has made significant progress to support breastfeeding,which include historic new insurance guidelines that will ensure millions of women receive preventive health services without a co-pay or deductible. These new guidelines, developed by the independent Institute of Medicine, require insurance companies to cover certain women’s preventive services, including breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling.
In addition, the ACA amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 by having employers provide reasonable break time and a place, other than a restroom, that is private and clean for a mother to express milk.
I hope World Breastfeeding Week will spark conversations and efforts that will support women who want to breastfeed.