Health and Family Services Cabinet
Kentucky observes World Breastfeeding Month; New state law supports nursing mothers
FRANKFORT, Ky. (Aug. 4, 2006) – Breast milk is the perfect food for babies, research shows, and a new state law may help mothers be less reluctant to nurse in public to meet their children’s needs.
Kentucky is one of several states observing August as World Breastfeeding Month, and this year’s theme is “Code Watch: 25 Years of Protecting Breastfeeding,” which highlights the importance of protecting breastfeeding in our communities.
Becky Derifield, breastfeeding promotion coordinator for the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services’ Department for Public Health, said this is an exciting time for Kentucky families since the law took effect last month.
“The new breastfeeding law offers support to Kentucky families and protects future generations of mothers and children,” she said.
Sponsored by Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, SB 106 affirms a mother’s right to breastfeed or express breast milk in public. The law says breastfeeding or expressing milk for a child “shall not be considered an act of public indecency and shall not be considered indecent exposure, sexual conduct, lewd touching, or obscenity.”
Breastfeeding provides nutritional and health advantages that last far beyond infancy, Derifield said, such as reduction in ear infections, allergies, hospitalization and childhood obesity.
“Babies who are breastfed are less likely to grow up overweight and unhealthy,” Derifield said. “It’s giving children the best start in life.”
Breastfeeding also offers health benefits to mothers by helping them lose pregnancy weight faster, reducing the risk of breast and ovarian cancer and reducing the risk of osteoporosis later in life.
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and breastfeeding with complementary foods for at least the first year.
The number of Kentucky mothers who breastfeed at birth has increased by 4 percent to 54 percent in the past two years. Derifield said the cabinet is encouraging more resources to move that number closer to the national rate of 75 percent.
“Every child has the right to the highest attainable standard of health,” she said. “Breastfeeding moms need support from their health care provider, family and friends to successfully breastfeed their infants.”
Despite the compelling evidence to support breastfeeding, new mothers can face barriers that make it difficult to initiate or prolong breastfeeding. These can include hospital policies that do not support breastfeeding, health care providers who are uncomfortable with breastfeeding, perceptions that breastfeeding mothers may not be able to produce enough milk to feed their baby and lack of support from family, friends and coworkers.
“Research shows that new moms are extremely vulnerable to the messages they receive from their health care providers regarding infant feeding practices,” Derifield said. Medical professionals can make a difference by offering families appropriate breastfeeding educational messages and positive support.
The cabinet is also encouraging breastfeeding at work.
“Breastfeeding saves money for families and employers,” Derifield said. “It lowers work absenteeism and lowers insurance costs.”
The cabinet encourages worksites to adopt polices and practices that recognize breastfeeding as the norm. Breastfeeding rooms are appearing in public buildings as well as in large and small businesses across Kentucky.
In 2005, the cabinet established a breastfeeding room for its central office in Frankfort. Working mothers can use their break time to express, and visiting moms are offered a quiet place to stop with their babies.
“We hope the cabinet can serve as a model to other state businesses in assuring today’s moms that working and breastfeeding are not exclusive,” Derifield said.
Also this month, the cabinet and Louisville Metro Department of Public Health are sponsoring the Rock and Relax room in the South Wing of the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville. The room provides mothers visiting the fair with a clean, private place to change and breastfeed their babies or express milk. The fair runs Aug. 17-27.
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