As part of National Breastfeeding Month, New Jersey Health Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd is calling on healthcare providers, families, employers, and communities to support mothers and babies to breastfeed. The theme, "Breastfeeding Support: Close to Mothers," highlights the importance of a society-wide commitment to enable mothers to meet their personal goals for breastfeeding.
"Breastfeeding is the best source of infant nutrition and protects babies from illness, and it provides health benefits to mothers as well," said Commissioner O'Dowd "Mothers need information, help and skilled support when they breastfeed. That's why the Department is working with healthcare providers to improve support for breastfeeding mothers and their infants."
According to the federal Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, breast milk helps boost the immune systems of infants and can reduce the risk of respiratory infection and Type 1 Diabetes. Mothers who breastfeed have lower risk of breast and ovarian cancer and postpartum depression.
Several Department initiatives focus on providing support for breastfeeding moms and increasing breastfeeding rates in New Jersey.
The Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) conducts a breastfeeding peer counseling program. Present or former breastfeeding WIC mothers are trained to help other WIC mothers learn about breastfeeding and maintain contact with them throughout pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Peer counselors visit new WIC mothers in the hospital and provide group and individual breastfeeding support in the WIC clinics. WIC serves low-income women, infants, and children and offers additional food for exclusively breastfeeding mothers.
The Department's Office of Nutrition and Fitness, working with the Shaping NJ Partnership, sponsors the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) in New Jersey, a quality improvement program to assist maternity hospitals in providing support to new mothers to breastfeed their newborns. More than 225 organizations participate in Shaping NJ to improve health through physical activity and good nutrition.
Baby-Friendly hospitals provide the recommended care for lactating mothers and their babies. The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is a global initiative of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). In New Jersey, four hospitals have been designated as Baby-Friendly: Inspira Medical Center Elmer, Capital Health Medical Center - Hopewell, CentraState Medical Center, and Jersey Shore University Medical Center.
In addition, more than 20 other maternity hospitals in the State are working toward Baby-Friendly designation, including University Hospital in Newark and Kennedy University Hospital-Washington Township, two hospitals selected to participate in the National Initiative for Children's Healthcare Quality (NICHQ) Best Fed Beginnings. This project is a nationwide quality improvement initiative to help hospitals improve maternity care and attain Baby-Friendly designation. The Best Fed Beginnings project is an outgrowth of lessons learned through implementing the BFHI in 29 states including New Jersey.
Throughout the month of August, many special events will call attention to the importance of breastfeeding. Activities range from displays and special activities in WIC clinics and hospitals, educational programs for health professionals, health fairs, and free breastfeeding seminars for parents.
For more information, visit http://www.state.nj.us/health/fhs/newborn/feed.shtml