One of the most highly effective preventive measures a mother can take to protect the health of her infant and herself is to breastfeed. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months of a baby's life, followed by breastfeeding in combination with the introduction of complementary foods until at least 12 months of age, and continuation of breastfeeding for as long as mutually desired by mother and baby.
Breastfeeding provides a protective effect against:
- Respiratory illnesses
- Ear infections
- Gastrointestinal diseases
- Allergies including asthma, eczema and atopic dermatitis
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- Breast and ovarian cancers
According to the Breastfeeding Report Card - 2011 published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
- 65.6 percent of infants born in Tennessee have ever breastfed, which is below the national average of 75 percent.
- By 6 months of age, 35.5 percent were breastfeeding (only 12.8 percent exclusively).
- The rate of breastfeeding at 12 months of age was 14.8 percent.
The large difference between the rate of mothers who have the intention of breastfeeding and those still breastfeeding at six months indicate that many obstacles exist for mothers in their attempt to breastfeed. Some of those obstacles are:
- Lack of experience or understanding among family members of how best to support mothers and babies
- Not enough opportunities to communicate with other breastfeeding mothers
- Lack of up-to-date instruction and information from health care professionals
- Hospital practices that make it difficult to get started with successful breastfeeding
- Lack of accommodation to breastfeed or express milk at the workplace
Tennessee has laws in place to support and protect breastfeeding families:
TCA 68-58-101: A mother may breastfeed in any public or private place she is authorized to be.
TCA 68-58-102: Breastfeeding shall not be considered public indecency or nudity, obscene, or sexual conduct.
TCA -68-58-103: Local governments shall not prohibit breastfeeding in public by local ordinance.
TCA 50-1-305: Employers must accommodate breastfeeding mothers at work.