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For Release: July 24, 2008
Contact: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications

Oklahoma’s Breastfeeding Initiation Rates Improved
World Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1-7, Mother Support: Going for the Gold

Oklahoma mothers are initiating breastfeeding at higher rates than in previous years, but breastfeeding mothers need support from the community to breastfeed longer. Because breastfeeding is the “gold standard” of infant feeding, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is promoting World Breastfeeding Week, August 1-7, with the theme Mother Support: Going for the Gold.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend that newborns should be breastfed exclusively for six months, and provided appropriate complimentary foods with continued breastfeeding for up to one year or beyond. However, many women do not breastfeed their infants as long as recommended for several reasons including the lack of support or encouragement.

“According to a recent Oklahoma Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) survey, 75.7 percent of Oklahoma mothers initiated breastfeeding in 2006. This is a significant increase from the year 2000 when only 68.1 percent of Oklahoma mothers initiated breastfeeding,” states Women, Infants and Children Breastfeeding Coordinator Rosanne Smith. PRAMS is an ongoing, statewide study that collects information about a woman’s behaviors and experiences before, during and after pregnancy.

Although breastfeeding initiation rates have improved in Oklahoma, breastfeeding duration rates, or the length of time that a woman breastfeeds, continue to be below the national average. According to PRAMS, in 2006 only 34.3 percent of women were still breastfeeding at 10 weeks postpartum, which had decreased from 35.1 percent in 2000.

Significant barriers to continued breastfeeding exist that must be addressed before Oklahoma can increase its breastfeeding duration rates. One of the leading causes of early weaning includes the lack of support when returning to work after maternity leave. The number of women returning to the workforce after maternity leave is on the rise, making breastfeeding support in the workplace pivotal to helping women breastfeed longer.

“The State Chamber of Commerce is happy to encourage businesses to support the efforts of working mothers to breastfeed after returning to work. Through their increased efforts we may be able to improve breastfeeding duration rates in Oklahoma at least among women who return to work during that first year of their baby's life,” said State Chamber of Oklahoma Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Ronn Cupp.

During World Breastfeeding Week, county health departments across the state will host various festivities to promote the “Mother Support: Going for the Gold” theme. For more information about breastfeeding and how to become a breastfeeding friendly worksite, visit the OSDH breastfeeding Web site at http://bis.health.ok.gov or contact the county health department in your area.

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