Surgeon General Dr. Regina M. Benjamin released a statement on Friday in honor of World Breastfeeding Week about her hopes to reduce disparities in breastfeeding rates. Dr. Benjamin is an African-American woman from Alabama, a state with one of the lowest breastfeeding rates, particularly among black women. Currently, less than 45% of black mothers in Alabama initiate breastfeeding. The CDC's Healthy People 2010 goal is for a breastfeeding initiation rate of 75%, with 50% still breastfeeding at 6 months, and 25% at one year. We've got a ways to go.
World Breastfeeding Week provides an opportunity to highlight the benefits of breastfeeding and to make people aware of how we can lend support to mothers who want to breastfeed.I am committed to promoting and supporting optimal breastfeeding practices with the ultimate goal of improving the public's health. This is because breastfeeding is the best source of infant nutrition, and it provides immunologic protection and health benefits both to breastfeeding mothers and to the children they nurse.The Affordable Care Act that was enacted earlier this year takes some significant strides in support of breastfeeding. The new law requires employers to provide time and a safe space for women employees who want to express their milk. It also requires health plans to offer certain preventative services without cost-sharing requirements, including counseling and support for mothers who want to breastfeed and for nursing mothers.This fall, I will release a Surgeon General’s “Call to Action” that will draw from the best available science to explain how all sectors of the community can help create an environment that is supportive of mothers who choose to breastfeed. It will show how a community-wide approach can help reduce disparities among breastfeeding mothers and children of all backgrounds, and how to improve support for nursing women in their workplaces and communities.I hope World Breastfeeding Week will help Americans become more aware of these resources and use them throughout the year.
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