Tennessee says "Breastfeed"

The Tennessee Department of Health has been helping mothers give their babies the best start in life for more than 90 years, and education and support for breastfeeding are a big part of these important efforts. TDH celebrates World Breastfeeding Week Aug. 1-7 to help promote the importance of breastfeeding as a lifesaving goal.

“It is becoming more clear breastfeeding is a crucial health choice, protecting babies from stomach, lung and skin problems and ear infections along with obesity later in life and mothers from breast  and ovarian cancer as well as diabetes. It is simply one of the best and lowest cost health protections our society can support,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “We are proud to now have 24/7 support for breastfeeding moms, supporting dads and families, and we urge Tennesseans to learn about the evidence of the benefits of breastfeeding to help build the community of support for nursing mothers and babies.”

“Breastfeeding:  A Winning Goal – For Life!” is the theme for World Breastfeeding Week 2014, sponsored by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action. The week highlights the importance of increasing and sustaining the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding.

Nursing mothers in Tennessee have a new means of support through the Tennessee Breastfeeding Hotline, 1-855-4BF-MOMS (1-855-423-6667). This toll-free hotline is available 24-hours a day, seven days a week to connect breastfeeding mothers, caregivers, family members and others seeking information on breastfeeding with International Board Certified Lactation Consultants and Certified Lactation Counselors. TDH provides the Tennessee Breastfeeding Hotline in partnership with Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis.

“We want to support breastfeeding mothers around the clock, and the Tennessee Breastfeeding Hotline is a vital part of our network of services for families,” said Michael Warren, MD, MPH, TDH director of Family Health and Wellness. “Mothers and family members can call even during those overnight feedings and get answers and support from experts trained in breastfeeding counseling. Sometimes all that’s needed to boost a mother’s confidence in her ability to breastfeed is that voice of encouragement, or talking with someone who can understand and identify with her experience.”

The circle of care for mothers includes their family members, partners, health care providers and peer counselors. TDH has peer counselors in 45 clinics across the state who serve WIC mothers by providing support from their own breastfeeding experiences. Peer counselors are usually women from the community who are trained to support breastfeeding. Studies have found peer counselors effectively improve rates of breastfeeding initiation, duration and exclusivity.

Additionally, TDH has designated breastfeeding experts available in all Tennessee county health departments. Find a list of county health departments online at http://health.state.tn.us/localdepartments.htm.

Tennessee lawmakers also support the vital practice of breastfeeding. The Tennessee General Assembly has passed laws protecting a mother’s right to breastfeed in any location, public or private; prohibiting local governments from criminalizing or restricting breastfeeding; and requiring employers in Tennessee to accommodate breastfeeding mothers at work.

Many Tennessee health department locations are holding activities throughout the month of August to encourage and support breastfeeding. Find a list of planned activities at http://breastfeeding.tn.gov/AwarenessActivities.shtml.

For more information on breastfeeding, visit http://breastfeeding.tn.gov/ and the following websites:

•       www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding

•       www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/index.htm

•       www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/breastfeeding.html

•       www.lalecheleague.org

•       http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/

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