By Ellen B. Babb, PhD, MPH, RD, LD, CLC
WIC State Breastfeeding Coordinator
DHEC Division of WIC Services
Just how beneficial is breastfeeding for mothers and babies? Let us count the ways.
- Human milk provides the ideal balance of nutrients for an infant’s growth and development.
- Human milk is easy to digest and protects babies from diarrhea and other stomach issues.
- Breastfeeding reduces the risk of SIDS, as well as infectious and chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer.
- Breastfeeding saves money.
- Breastfeeding provides a unique bonding experience for mother and baby.
Considering all those benefits — and there are more — is it any wonder that pediatricians and other health officials encourage mothers to breastfeed?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that breastfeeding continue for at least 12 months, and thereafter for as long as mother and baby desire.
World Breastfeeding Week
We cannot overstate the value of breastfeeding, which is why August 1 – 7 is set aside as World Breastfeeding Week. The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) encourages all expectant and new mothers to know the facts about the important health benefits of breastfeeding.
In South Carolina, 73 percent of babies have been breastfed for some period of time, 13 percent are exclusively breastfed at six months, and 14 percent are breastfeeding in some capacity at 12 months. Among all WIC mothers in South Carolina, 24 percent of children under age 1 are being breastfed.
WIC Supports Breastfeeding Moms and Babies
Many times moms and babies need assistance to get the most out of breastfeeding. That’s where DHEC’s Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program comes in; we have supportive breastfeeding staff, which includes breastfeeding peer counselors, certified lactation counselors and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants, ready to help.
WIC provides resources and services such as:
- Breastfeeding education materials
- Enhanced breastfeeding food packages
- Breastfeeding support groups (Circle of Friends)
- “How to Breastfeed” classes
- Breast pumps and supplies
One of the best ways to get a good start breastfeeding after giving birth is to have your baby at a Baby-Friendly Hospital, where mothers are given optimum support to initiate and continue breastfeeding their babies safely. To view a listing of South Carolina hospitals that have received this designation, please click here.
The success rate among mothers who want to breastfeed can be greatly improved through active support from their families, friends, communities, clinicians, health care leaders and employers.