World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated in August in the U.S., and in October in many other countries. This year there is much to celebrate! The theme, “Empower Parents - Enable Breastfeeding,” calls on organizations to revisit their family-friendly policies and practices and for all of us to make it easier for new parents to reach their goals.
It’s all about the support. As the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee puts it, Support Changes Everything! Support normalizes breastfeeding and helps new parents feel they are not alone. Support reduces obstacles that can make it hard for new parents. And across the country, big changes continue to ramp up support.
The new law, “Fairness for Breastfeeding Mothers Act,” was just passed by Congress and signed by the President last week! The bill requires federal buildings like the Capitol and the Smithsonian to have designated lactation rooms for both visitors and employees so they can breastfeed or express milk in a clean, private place. Before this law, breastfeeding mothers visiting federal buildings often hid, ducked into an unsanitary bathroom to feed their babies, or risked negative comments about breastfeeding in public. ALL 50 States also now have state laws allowing breastfeeding mothers to feed their babies in public. Support matters!
The 2018 FAM Act (Friendly Airports for Mothers), requires all medium and large airports to provide a designated non-bathroom room for travelers and airport employees. Before the law, nursing moms often breastfed or expressed milk in unsanitary bathrooms or became uncomfortably engorged while waiting until they could find a private space. Now lactation spaces are becoming the norm in airports across the country and mothers can freely breastfeed or express milk in comfort and privacy. Support matters!
The Break Time for Nursing Mothers law went into effect in 2010 to require businesses to provide reasonable time and private space for employed breastfeeding moms. Before this law, very few businesses had dedicated lactation rooms and many new moms gave up on breastfeeding early because the challenges were too great. Today in 2019, the Society for Human Resource Management reports that over 50% of businesses have onsite lactation rooms, and many more provide a private area when employees need to express milk. Support matters!
There are now more than 500 hospitals designated as Baby-Friendly across the U.S., including 13 in Mississippi, with more on the way! Baby-Friendly has now become the standard of care for maternity hospitals. This means new parents can count on policies and practices that support their breastfeeding goals and help them get off to the best start possible.
Support matters...and THAT is why the breastfeeding rates are going up! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just released the newest breastfeeding rates, based on the 2016 National Immunization Survey. Today, 83.8% of new mothers in the U.S. start out breastfeeding!
Breastfeeding is now the norm in the United States, and Every Mother, Inc. encourages you to take advantage of the momentum. Take a few moments to think about your workplace, your organization, your hospital, your doctor’s office, your shopping areas, your place of worship. Would new parents feel support there? What changes would make it easier for them? Speak up and use National Breastfeeding Month to make your voice heard. Visit the USBC website for gazillions of ways to share your stories and make a difference!