OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa WIC office always encourages mothers to breastfeed, but it’s making a special effort to promote the practice during August, designated National Breastfeeding Month by the United States Breastfeeding Committee.
“We encourage breastfeeding,” said Registered Nurse Kim Proctor, the certified lactation counselor with Women, Infants and Children. “It’s absolutely the healthiest thing you can do for your newborn.” Breast milk provides antibodies to babies, reduces allergies and is “a great bonding situation,” she said.
Breastfeeding “provides the exact nutrition that the baby needs at that time,” added WIC Coordinator Cindy Meiners.
Formula is formulated in a factory, Proctor tells clients. “Breast milk is formulated in our own factory, but it’s exactly what your baby needs.”
The message is reaching women. “The rates have been steadily building,” said Meiners.
“More young mothers are wanting to breastfeed,” Proctor said. More last-time moms are choosing to breastfeed as well.
The decision to breastfeed involves preparing your mind to do it, said Proctor.
A big concern among mothers is having enough milk for their babies, Meiners said. “They always feel like they don’t have a very big milk supply.”
“Your body will produce the amount of milk your baby needs,” said Proctor.
Even working women can breastfeed, using a breast pump to collect milk while at work. “I think more agencies are coming around to providing [rooms]… so they can pump at work.” She doesn’t like the idea of women being relegated to the restroom to pump.
Proctor said companies should be happy to have breastfeeding moms working for them. “Women that breastfeed their babies miss less work,” she said. The children are healthier, so their moms don’t have to miss work to take care of them due to sickness.
WIC provides pumps for the first month to women participating in WIC, Proctor said, until they can buy one of their own.
Breastfeeding also has health benefits for moms, Proctor said. “Statistics show that women who have breastfed are less susceptible to breast cancers,” Proctor said.
Losing that baby weight is easier when breastfeeding as well. “Women that breastfeed lose more weight after delivery,” Proctor said. Making breastmilk burns about 800 calories a day.
Even environmental reasons are cited in favor of breastfeeding. Meiners wrote in a grant proposal, “Breastfeeding is more energy efficient than bottle feeding. It requires no resources for storage or disposal. There is no energy wasted sterilizing or refrigerating bottles and no water and detergent are needed for washing and filling bottles.”
Formula uses more than 3 million pounds of steel, almost 400,000 pounds of paper and close to 4 million gallons of cows' milk, requiring grazing land, product transportation and packaging, Meiners wrote.
The WIC office doesn’t usually do anything special for breastfeeding awareness month, Proctor said, but this year, it’s celebrating. The staff will wear T-shirts with a breastfeeding awareness logo every Wednesday of the month and will give away one of the shirts every Wednesday to a WIC client.
The staff will also be attending the Breastfeeding Awareness Event sponsored by Nursing Mothers’ Support Group at Bridge View Center Aug. 19.
Reporter Winona Whitaker can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @courierwinona.