Breastfeeding is on the rise in this country and Effingham County is not left out.
The Effingham County Health Department will hold free breastfeeding classes next Wednesday with the goal of getting more mothers to consider the feeding practice.
“We just know that breastfeeding is the best nutritional choice for infants,” said Barbara Scott, nurse manager at the department.
The Centers for Disease Control reports that more and more moms are choosing to breastfeed. Seventy-five percent of new moms in 21 states initiated the practice in 2004. Over 30 percent of babies born that year were breastfed exclusively through 3 months of age.
It’s being embraced locally, too.
“This is working very well with Effingham County,” said Monica Lightfoot of the Coastal Health District, the class instructor. “In Effingham, I am seeing more reception.”
And mothers aren’t the only ones returning to the practice.
“Doctors have really gone back to encouraging breastfeeding,” Scott said.
For a while mothers had largely abandoned breastfeeding, remarked Scott. When she had her last child in the ’70s, doctors didn’t encourage it.
She attributed the decline to mothers wanting more freedom for things such as going back to work after childbirth.
Now, she said they realize that they can still do all the things they want to and still breastfeed.
Since April, the Women, Infants and Children program at the health department has been holding two classes per month. One is a breastfeeding education class and the other is actually a support group for breastfeeding moms.
The classes are open to everyone, not just moms enrolled in WIC.
Lightfoot explained that in the education class she likes to start by asking mothers what they already know about breastfeeding and what they would like to know.
The certified counselor and fluent Spanish speaker has been educating parents about the feeding practice since 2002.
She also speaks from first-hand experience as she breastfed her own two children.
“The goal is increasing the breastfeeding rate,” she acknowledged, stressing that breast milk is the best choice for babies.
Extensive research proves it. The American Academy of Pediatrics cite that the range of benefits to breastfeeding include health, nutrition, immunological, developmental, social, economic, environmental and psychological.
They report that babies who are breastfed are less likely to suffer from ear infections, diarrhea, pneumonia, bacterial and viral infections and bronchiolitis.
The Department of Health and Human Services states that breast milk has antibodies that help protect babies from viruses and bacteria.
“What are you going to choose: the best or the formula that is trying to copy the breast milk?” asked Lightfoot.
The benefits extend to the mother, as well. The AAP reports that women who breastfeed burn more calories, lower their risk of developing ovarian and breast cancer and keep their bones strong, which protects against bone fractures as they get older.
Scott said that an average of five to eight moms attend the classes.
“We would like to reach out and find some people in the community,” she said.
For mothers who choose not to breastfeed or who cannot, formula is the second best option.
Anyone interested in attending the classes should make an appointment by calling 754-9052.