When it comes to infant feeding, many of us may have heard that “breast is best”. The health benefits of breastfeeding to moms and babies include reducing the risk of maternal postpartum depression, supporting a faster return to pre-pregnancy weight, reducing infant mortality and reducing the risk of the infant developing chronic health conditions as adults. While these benefits are certainly noteworthy, the benefits of breastfeeding extend beyond mom and baby.
Breastfeeding has significant economic and environmental benefits. In celebration of World Breastfeeding Week, held annually since 1992 during the first first week of August, the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action is promoting breastfeeding as a shared responsibility for individuals and communities. Breastfeeding may defray both direct and indirect costs including reducing health care costs associated with office visits, prescriptions and hospitalizations, reducing family food costs and avoiding lost wages due to caring for a sick child. In terms of the environmental benefits, the impact of breastfeeding is equally as significant. With breastfeeding, there is no packaging to go into the landfills and no transportation costs to get the product to market as there is with formula. While supporting breastfeeding is good for all of us, it is also important to recognize that not every parent or family chooses to breastfeed and that there may be physical, emotional or cultural reasons which impacts a parent’s feeding choice. It is up to every parent to decide what is best for her and her baby.
Whether or not we have direct experience with breastfeeding or know someone who does, it behooves us all to be supportive of breastfeeding. Our GMHEC schools, Champlain College, Middlebury College and St. Michael’s College are all supportive of breastfeeding and have been designated by the State of Vermont as “Breastfeeding Friendly Employers”. Each of these schools have policies in place to support a woman’s choice to breastfeed, allow use of flexible time and breaks for expressing breastmilk and provide a clean, private space (that is not a bathroom) for breastfeeding or expressing milk.
To learn more about World Breastfeeding Week check out the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action. If you’re interested in local breastfeeding classes or support groups you can find a list on the La Leche League website. For members of the GMHEC college Cigna health plans, Cigna provides breastfeeding support and counseling as well as breast pump rentals through the Durable Medical Equipment benefit. To find out more about this benefit contact Carecentrix at 844.457.9810.