LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has declared August 2021 as Breastfeeding Awareness Month.
It’s part of what the state says is a commitment to supporting breastfeeding mothers for the first year of their child’s life and beyond, according to a news release Monday.
“During Breastfeeding Awareness month this August, which includes Native Breastfeeding Week and Black Breastfeeding Week, we recommit ourselves to pursue equity for breastfeeding moms, including additional support and resources for Black and Native breastfeeding mothers,” Whitmer said. “We are dedicated to broadening public understanding of the critical impact breastfeeding has on improving the health of infants and mothers and reducing infant mortality rates within minority communities.”
Breastfeeding benefits nursing infants because of easy digestion, production of antibodies and reduced risk of infections and childhood obesity. It also offers faster recovery from birth and reduced risk of postpartum hemorrhage and uterine cancer to the breastfeeding mother, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
Disparities in breastfeeding rates and other maternal and infant health outcomes are more evident for Black and Indigenous families than for other Michiganders, MDHHS added.
Increased efforts to highlight increased support for breastfeeding are part of the governor’s Healthy Moms Healthy Babies initiative.
MDHHS says some ways to support breastfeeding include advocating for paid maternity leave and adequate pumping time while at work and school, and by bolstering “Baby Friendly” hospitals.
Although 86.9% of Michigan families start breastfeeding, only 58% are still breastfeeding at three months.
The state says this is because of barriers like lack of access to supportive health care and childcare providers, as well as lack of paid work leave. There are also fewer lactation professionals from communities of color.
Black infants are 20% less likely to have ever received breast milk than any other race, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In Michigan, seven of every 1,000 babies born die by age 1, and that number is more than double among Black babies.
Between 80 and 90 maternal deaths occur each year, with Black women dying 2.4% more often.
“Proper nutrition for infants is critical for their growth and development, and it is important for hospitals, business, communities and coalitions to work together to provide consistent support for breastfeeding mothers in Michigan,” said Dr. Joneigh Khladun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health at MDHHS. “Supporting breastfeeding is about the health of our entire community, so it is important that businesses and communities implement policies and provide an environment that supports a family’s breastfeeding goals.”
One resource the state offers for breastfeeding mothers is the WIC Peer Counseling support program, which aims to diversify lactation support and increase breastfeeding rates in local communities across the state.
That includes support through:
- Free, unlimited access to lactation consultants and breastfeeding peer counselors
- Training to all WIC staff to support prenatal and breastfeeding families
- Breastfeeding clients get more WIC foods than non-breastfeeding clients, including canned fish, and are able to stay on the program longer
- At 6 months old, breastfed babies receive infant meats and more fruits and vegetables
- Many WIC clinics offer telehealth appointments
- WIC offers a breastfeeding warmline seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 833-649-4233.