If 90% of U.S. families follow guidelines to breastfeed exclusively for six months, the U.S. would save $13 billion a year from reduced medical and other costs.
This finding, and others, published last year in the journal Pediatrics, were underscored in the celebration of World Breastfeeding Week, which was observed in the first week of August to promote longer breastfeeding durations.
According to the Commonwealth Health Care Corp. and the CNMI Women, Infants, and Children program, families that follow optimal breastfeeding practices can save between $1,200 and $1,500 in expenditures on infant formula in the first year alone.
These are on top of the health benefits of breastfeeding, said CHCC spokesperson Zoe Travis. Among those benefits:
• Breastfeeding protects babies from infections and illnesses that include diarrhea, ear infections, and pneumonia.
• Breastfed babies are less likely to develop asthma.
• Children who are breastfed for six months are less likely to become obese.
• Breastfeeding reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
• Mothers who breastfeed have a decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
This year, World Breastfeeding Week was observed from Aug 1 to Aug. 7, with the theme “Empower Parents, Enable Breastfeeding.”
For the final day of the celebration, WIC held a “one-stop service event” at the WIC clinic on Navy Hill. It invited other CHCC programs and community partners to offer free services and provide education and program information. This event was able to assist 22 participants and their children.
CNMI WIC aims to promote and support breastfeeding, with the goal of making it accessible and equitable for mothers and babies in the CNMI. According to 2018 data, the WIC program’s initiation rates are currently at their highest at about 94%. This meets the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Healthy People 2020 goal.
Despite high initiation rates in 2018, only 38% of infants in the CNMI were still being breastfed at six months, which is lower than the national goal of 60%. This means that increasing duration rates is a major goal for WIC over the next three years, including a focus on workplace inclusivity when it comes to breastfeeding mothers.
Together with the National WIC Association, WIC aims is to help participants overcome breastfeeding barriers by providing optimal breastfeeding support. The program recently began doing home visits, where WIC breastfeeding counselors go to the homes of WIC moms to help them with their breastfeeding concerns in the setting where they are most comfortable. WIC feels that home visits and hospital visits, when WIC moms deliver, will help the program reach the goal of longer breastfeeding durations.
For those interested in learning more about WIC’s breastfeeding goals and what support is offered, contact WIC Breastfeeding Services Counselor Luisa Santos at email@example.com or call (670) 664-4084.