Washington State Nutrition & Physical Activity Plan
Nutrition Objective 3

Increase the proportion of mothers who breastfeed their infants and toddlers

In 2005, most new mothers in Washington said they began breastfeeding their infants at birth, but only 75% of these mothers were still breastfeeding two months later.

Human milk provides the best nutrition for infants and children.(1,2) Breastfed children are healthier, incur fewer health care costs, and are less likely to experience obesity and chronic diseases when they are older.(3,4) If 75 percent of infants were breastfed early in life and 50 percent were still breastfed at six months, as recommended by the U.S. Surgeon General, it would save an estimated $3.6 billion in health care costs.(5) Breastfeeding avoids the financial and environmental costs associated with the manufacture and transportation of formula and disposal of formula containers.

Families and Individuals

Almost all mothers would breastfeed if they understand how breastfeeding works and are confident that they can provide the milk their baby needs. Early breastfeeding experiences are very important. When babies nurse frequently, mothers will produce enough milk. The key components of breastfeeding success recommended by national professional health organizations are as follows.(1,2,3,4)

Knowledge, Preparation and Planning

    • Mothers are more likely to breastfeed when health professionals recommend breastfeeding.
    • Families can learn about breastfeeding and make plans to have access to professional help if they need it to get breastfeeding off to a good start.
    • Milk supply will decrease if the infant and mother go too long between feedings; families can plan ahead for times when mothers and babies will be apart or will need a clean and comfortable place to nurse away from home.

    Support

    • Delays in early breastfeeding can lead to ongoing problems; mothers and babies need breastfeeding support at birth.
    • Active support and encouragement from fathers and other family members leads to better breastfeeding.
    • The materials produced by formula companies and formula sample packs undermine a woman’s confidence in her ability to breastfeed.

Strategies for Success

Cultural Competence

Harborview Medical Center in Seattle supports breastfeeding in a multi-ethnic population through:

  • Learning about and respecting the cultural meanings of breastfeeding.
  • Training health care providers and staff to support breastfeeding in culturally responsive and effective ways.
  • Promoting breastfeeding through classes and materials in many languages and using pictures that reflect the diversity of the families served at Harborview.

Communication

International Breastfeeding Icon

This symbol can be used instead of pictures of a baby bottle to designate baby friendly places. The image is available copyright free from: http://www.breastfeedingsymbol.org/.

The Breastfeeding Coalition of Washington State (BCW) Web site has information about breastfeeding, resources and links.

WithinReach has a toll-free hotline to answer questions about breastfeeding, available online at ParentHelp123.org.