World Breastfeeding Week Celebrates Healthy Benefits of Practice

Sunday, July 23, 2006 | 07:00pm

Breastfed Babies Have Lower Infant Mortality Rates Than Non-Breastfed Infants

 Nashville, July 24, 2006

World Breastfeeding Week, August 1-7, celebrates 25 years of raising awareness about the importance of breastfeeding. Research indicates that breastfeeding is not only nutritious and healthy for infants, but provides health advantages to mothers as well.  

“Breast milk is still the best food for your baby’s first year of life,” said Glenda King, breastfeeding coordinator for the Tennessee Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. “Nearly all women are able to breastfeed when they receive consistent and accurate information and are supported by their health care providers, family and community. Hospitals, health providers, workplaces and communities can work together to protect breastfeeding by establishing a breastfeeding-friendly environment.” 

This spring, the Tennessee Department of Health launched 1 For All, a campaign aimed at reducing the infant mortality rate in Tennessee. Infant mortality refers to the death of a live-born infant at any point before the first year of life.  Currently, Tennessee is ranked 48th in the nation for infant mortality rate (8.6), the number of infant deaths per 1,000 live births, with only two states that have higher rates.  According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding can reduce infant deaths. The data showed that breastfed babies had a 21 percent lower infant mortality rate between their first month of life and their first birthday than children who were not breastfed. Longer breastfeeding was associated with lower risk.  

In addition to reduced infant mortality, breastfeeding provides numerous benefits for both mother and child. Infants receive a complete form of nutrition, develop a stronger immune system, have fewer infections and allergies, are less likely to become obese and have higher IQ scores. Mothers lose pregnancy pounds more easily, have a lower risk of breast and ovarian cancers, are less likely to develop osteoporosis later in life and enjoy a unique bond with their children. Society can also benefit from breastfeeding through reduced health care costs, less environmental waste and a more productive workforce.  

Tennessee has moved to protect this healthy practice, recently passing a law protecting a mother’s right to breastfeed a child 12 months or younger in any location, public or private, where the mother and child are authorized to be present. It also prohibits local governments from criminalizing or restricting breastfeeding. An existing law requires employers in Tennessee to accommodate breastfeeding mothers at work. 

Administered through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the WIC program also supports women who breastfeed. WIC is a federally funded supplemental nutrition program for pregnant women, new mothers, nursing mothers, infants and children under five years old who have a medical or nutritional need and meet income guidelines. WIC mothers who breastfeed receive assistance and support, as well as breast pumps. Eligible breastfeeding mothers receive an enhanced food package and longer eligibility for WIC than non-breastfeeding mothers. USDA prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, age or disability. For more information about the WIC Program and hours of clinic operation, call your local health department or call 1-800-DIAL-WIC. 

Breastfeeding advocates are on staff at every county health department to provide information and counseling for new mothers. For a list of local health departments, visit the Department of Health’s Web site at For more information about 1 For All, visit or call 1-877-LIVE-TO-1.

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