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Promoting the merits of breastfeeding

Published: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 3:06 p.m. CST • Updated: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 3:29 p.m. CST

PRINCETON — The Bureau/Putnam County Health Department is joining with a statewide effort to encourage mothers to breastfeed their babies.

Gov. Pat Quinn has proclaimed the month of August as Breastfeeding Promotion Month in Illinois and also supports Aug. 1-7 as World Breastfeeding Week.

Laurie Geuther, a registered nurse and certified lactation specialist with the Bureau/Putnam County Health Department’s WIC program, said the success of breastfeeding depends a lot on the mother’s confidence and the support she receives from others. When a mom is tired and the baby is fussy, those are critical times for moms to receive the needed support to continue breastfeeding, she said.

To help with that support, the local health department has a peer counselor and two lactation specialists on staff. Those services are free. There are also other organized support groups in the area, through local hospitals and the La Leche League. However, in today’s world, a lot of people seem to be more likely to look for information and support through the Internet, Geuther said.

Among the websites recommended by Geuther are www.gothefull40.com,www.kellymom.com,www.lowmilksupply.org, and www.bfar.com.

Looking at some of the advantages of breastfeeding, Geuther said breastfeeding is cost effective for families and also cost effective for preventing health problems in the child because breast-fed children are typically healthier.

As far as how long a mother should breast feed her baby, or if there should be supplemental food, those are questions which each mother must answer for herself, Geuther said.

“There is the ideal and the realistic,” Geuther said. “I want to support the mom in reaching her goals in what she feels is the best decision for her and her baby. I want to make sure she is able to make an informed decision. I would like moms to breastfeed, but I think the healthiest mom and baby is where they are comfortable and happy and feel nurtured.”

On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released statistics showing breastfeeding rates have risen during the past 10 years. The percentage of babies who started breastfeeding as infants increased from 71 percent in 2000 to 77 percent in 2010. The percentage of babies breastfeeding at 6 months increased from 35 percent to 49 percent for the same time period. The percentage of babies breastfeeding at 12 months increased from 16 percent to 27 percent during the same time period.

According to CDC Director Tom Frieden, this is great news for the health of the nation because babies who are breastfed have lower risks of ear and gastrointestinal infections, diabetes and obesity, and mothers who breast feed have lower risks of breast and ovarian cancers.

Also, breastfeeding lowers health care costs, Frieden said. Researchers have calculated that $2.2 billion in yearly medical costs could be saved if breastfeeding recommendations were met, he said.

“It is critical that we continue working to improve hospital, community and workplace support for breastfeeding mothers and babies and realize these cost savings,” Frieden said.

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