ST. LOUIS – August is an important time for talking about the benefits of breastfeeding. August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Week and August 25-31 is Black Breastfeeding Week.
At SSM Health DePaul Hospital, the baby-friendly task force raises awareness about the benefits of optimal infant feeding and maternal bonding.
Melissa Samaki, a lactation consultant at SSM Health DePaul Hospital, says the Family Birthplace at DePaul supports families beginning as early as the first trimester as they make plans for infant feeding. This support continues even after birth, with free classes to continue to support new mothers.
“The big emphasis is to communicate to the community that breastfeeding is very important and it is best supported by the community so that families of individuals can be successful with breastfeeding,” she said.
Breastfeeding provides a number of benefits for newborn health and development. World Breastfeeding Week raises awareness of these benefits broadly, while the goal of Black Breastfeeding Week is to raise awareness of disparities and the need to support Black families in this area.
“In the hospital setting, we make sure that our nurses and all our staff know that they play a very critical role in breastfeeding success,” Samaki said. “We want our families to know that we want to provide them with all the support they need to be successful with breastfeeding and that breastfeeding is the optimal way to feed babies.”
Samaki notes that a woman’s breast milk has over 200 components that cannot be duplicated in baby formula. Breastfeeding has been proven to decrease the risk of ear infections, upper respiration infection, SIDS, childhood cancers, childhood obesity, and, in general, breastfed babies have a higher IQ. For moms, breastfeeding also has important health benefits.
“It reduces their risk for different types of breast cancers, ovarian cancer, thyroid cancer, heart disease, Type II diabetes, and less risk for postpartum depression and anxiety,” she said.
At SSM Health DePaul Hospital, the majority of their new moms are Black women. Samaki says in St. Louis, “We recognize there are some barriers to getting breast pumps. The support person may not be supportive of breastfeeding. There could be cultural reasons or generational trauma with breastfeeding.”
In the St. Louis area, for instance, Black children are four times more likely to die of SIDS than white children. Increased breastfeeding rates and support could reduce this statistic by 50%. The focus of the Taskforce is to give moms an informed choice, so they know what the pros and cons of their choices are.
To find out more about maternity choices, click here.
The SSM Health Medical Minute airs Wednesdays on News 11 at 7 p.m. and FOX 2 News at 9 p.m.