Local view: We all win when babies are breast-fedThe Northland Breastfeeding Coalition recently added its name to the list of supporters for the Commons Health Hospital Challenge.
By: Sarah Stock, for the News Tribune
The Northland Breastfeeding Coalition recently added its name to the list of supporters for the Commons Health Hospital Challenge. The challenge is a recognition program that encourages hospitals to adopt well-established health-promotion goals. Hospitals aren’t fully responsible for the health of our community, but they can support broad community health improvements necessary for a healthy, resilient society. Without their example, how can we expect community members, businesses, organizations and others to come together to adopt similar voluntary practices and to make healthy behaviors the norm?
The Northland Breastfeeding Coalition envisions a community where breast-feeding is the norm, and one key goal of the challenge is the adoption of the World Health Organization’s Baby Friendly Hospital Guidelines. Baby-friendly guidelines recognize 10 defined steps that have been proven to predict successful breast-feeding.
While we know breast-feeding is the right choice for every baby, we acknowledge there can be barriers in life that make it difficult for every woman to choose breast-feeding as the way to feed her child. Hospital practices in the first hours of a baby’s life greatly affect a woman’s choice to breast-feed and also predict her level of success with breast-feeding.
The Northland Breastfeeding Coalition’s mission is to support, educate and empower members of the community for breast-feeding success. We recognize a woman defines what breast-feeding success means to her personally. Baby-friendly hospital practices have proven women are able to meet their goals for breast-feeding, whether the goal is for days, months or years.
Why does is matter if a hospital is baby-friendly? Higher rates of chronic disease and preventable illness such as obesity, diabetes, ear infection, heart disease, diarrhea, allergy and pneumonia all are associated with formula-feeding a baby. The continued escalation of health-care costs associated with treating preventable and chronic disease and the decreased quality of life due to the burdens of chronic disease can be lessened if more women choose and are successful with breast-feeding.
Breast milk is dose-dependent. Any amount of breast milk a baby receives is better than no breast milk. Babies who receive any amount of breast milk have a 21 percent lower risk of death in the first year of life compared to babies never breast-fed. This is translated to preventing 720 infant deaths in the United States alone. The World Health Organization estimates 1.5 million infants and children younger than 5 die annually. An estimated 40 percent of those deaths occur in a baby’s first month of life. If we consider these statistics, we could say one child dies every 21 seconds from a lack of breast-feeding.
Supporting women and families in their efforts to breast-feed makes healthier babies and healthier communities. The Northland Breastfeeding Coalition supports the Commons Health Hospital Challenge. We with the coalition encourage hospitals and clinics to rise to the challenge. Specifically, we urge them to choose to adopt Baby-Friendly USA practices.
There are two hospitals in Minnesota and eight in Wisconsin that have achieved the baby-friendly designation and more that have begun the process to adopt Baby-Friendly USA practices. That’s not enough. Everyone wins when babies breast-feed.
To learn moreTo learn more about the Commons Health Hospital Challenge, go to commonshealthchallenge.org, where you can add your name in support.
To learn more about the Northland Breastfeeding Coalition, go to northlandbreastfeedingcoalition.org.
Sarah Stock of Duluth is co-chairwoman of the Northland Breastfeeding Coalition.