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FOR RELEASE: July 19, 2001
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Breastfeeding Is Healthiest Choice for Babies

Continued education of mothers and grandmothers is needed to increase the number of women in the United States who choose to breastfeed, according to health officials. The American Academy of Pediatrics and Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) officials recommend that women breastfeed for at least the first 12 months of life. However, only about 59 percent of women in the United States breastfeed their babies immediately after birth and that number drops to 22 percent by six months.

World Breastfeeding Week is Aug. 1-7 and health care providers at the OSDH Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Service want to use this time to encourage mothers to breastfeed their babies. Breastfeeding provides biological and emotional bonding for mother and child. Also, breast milk has anti-infective properties that help protect infants against disease.

"Healthier babies benefit society as a whole. Studies show that we need to provide more educational information about breastfeeding to parents and grandmothers. To get the best results, information should be provided by physicians, nurses and the media to reach women before pregnancy or reach mothers in the first trimester when the mother usually decides whether to breast or bottle feed the baby,” said Tom Freeman, WIC Chief.

“Employers who accommodate nursing mothers find that health care costs may be reduced because mothers miss less work due to sick infants. Support of breastfeeding programs by government and businesses could benefit taxpayers also. Nationally, more than $500 million a year is spent providing free formula to infants through feeding programs like WIC when most of those mothers could be working and breastfeeding," Freeman said.

Some of the benefits of breastfeeding are:

  • Breast milk provides the perfect infant nutrition and is the right mix of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients needed for a healthy start.
  • Breast milk is easy for babies to digest so babies have less diarrhea, constipation, and spitting up than formula-fed babies do.
  • Breast milk helps the baby fight ear and urinary tract infections, have fewer serious illnesses, and delays allergies.
  • Breastfeeding helps the mother's body get back into shape after pregnancy. Breastfeeding saves money and breast milk is the right temperature and ready to use.

For more information about breastfeeding, contact your county health department WIC clinic or local WIC office in your area.

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