Breastfeeding infants has been called the single most important factor in saving children’s lives globally, yet no country in the world is meeting the minimum standards for supporting women in efforts to breastfeed their children, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund or UNICEF.
An event today at 10 a.m. hopes to be part of the solution by increasing acceptance of breastfeeding and giving women, their families and friends some resources and support.
The Roswell office of the Women’s, Infant and Children program of the New Mexico Department of Health, the New Mexico Breastfeeding Task Force and the local La Leche League chapter will hold a World Breastfeeding Week event at the Daniel E. Carpenter Park at the corner of East Buena Vista and Southeast Main streets.
The event will offer informational booths, kids’ activities, food and gift cards and other giveaways but also has two offerings specifically intended to “normalize” breastfeeding in public, the Big Latch On and the Live Love Latch event.
“We are participating in the Big Latch On,” said Amanda Bunch, nutrition supervisor for the local WIC office. “Women will be breastfeeding their babies simultaneously at many places around the world.”
World Breastfeeding Week has been held every year from Aug. 1-7 since 1992. Local groups have been hosting events for at least three consecutive years, according to Kim Lusk, a Roswell La Leche Leaguer.
The Big Latch On and the Love Laugh Latch event are meant to encourage women to enjoy breastfeeding together and to promote acceptance of breastfeeding in public.
“It might sound silly to people who aren’t breastfeeding or don’t know someone who is,” said Lusk, “but it is really a beautiful thing to be able to be around four or five other women who are breastfeeding.”
According to the World Health Organization, the decision whether to breastfeed, which has been proven to provide emotional and health benefits to infants and mothers and to offer an environmentally and economically sound choice, is often influenced by social, political, economic and cultural factors.
“In some places, no one is phased by a woman breastfeeding at a restaurant,” said Lusk, “but other places, it is not as accepted.”
Lusk added that breastfeeding is not an easy task at first, although it often proves to be easier than bottles and formulas as women become more skilled and comfortable. Lusk said some women want and need support to breastfeed successfully while balancing other demands in their lives.
“You don’t have to be currently breastfeeding to benefit from the event,” she said. “You could be pregnant or someone who wasn’t able to breastfeed for as long as they wanted with the first child and want to get some more information before the second child.”
The United States rates fairly low in some factors regarding breastfeeding support, according to international organizations.
For example, the International Labour Organization of Switzerland recommends a minimum of 14 weeks of maternity leave to ensure infant and mother health, including more time for breastfeeding, which UNICEF recommends as the exclusive feeding system for infants for six months and as a supplement to other foods and liquids for up to two years. The United States, however, is the only wealthy nation in the world that does not require a minimum amount of paid time off after a child’s birth, even though the federal Family and Medical Leave Act authorizes up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave. The United States, unlike many other nations, also does not require employers to allow time off during workdays for women to breastfeed or pump.
According to the Centers for Disease Control’s 2016 Breastfeeding Report Card, the most recent available publicly, while 85.5 percent of surveyed New Mexico mothers having children in 2013 reported breastfeeding at some point, only 26.6 percent were breastfeeding exclusively at six months. The total number nursing at six months was 51.1 percent, while the total at 12 months was 29.5 percent.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.