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Lactation consultants give advice during World Breastfeeding Week

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — It’s World Breastfeeding Week Aug. 1 – 7, marking an annual celebration to highlight the benefits of breast milk. 

According to the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, World Breastfeeding Week, or WBW, is celebrated in commemoration of the 1990 Innocenti Declaration, which protects, promotes, and supports breastfeeding.

The celebration started in 1992, with annual themes including healthcare systems, women and work, the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, community support, ecology, economy, science, education, and human rights.

Since 2016, WBW aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In 2018, a World Health Assembly resolution endorsed WBW as an important breastfeeding promotion strategy.

According to the World Health Organization

  • More than half a billion working women are not given essential maternity protections in national laws. 
  • Only 20% of countries require employers to provide employees with paid breaks and facilities for breastfeeding or expressing milk. 
  • Fewer than half of infants under 6 months of age are exclusively breastfed.

Difficulties in breastfeeding can be isolating, painful, and reduce human milk being given to babies, but local board-certified lactation consultants are working to change that.

Beth Brewer and Kathy Thomas are registered nurses and certified lactation consultants with Indy Lactation Care. They joined News 8 Weekend DayBreak to talk about the importance of the week and give moms advice on breastfeeding.

Thomas, who is the owner of Indy Lactation Care, says the entire week is exciting, bringing recognition to the importance of lactation worldwide. 2023’s theme was “Let’s make breastfeeding and work, work,” focusing on moms returning to work.

“(Moms) returning to work is most of our demographic – moms returning to work and it’s not easy. Some businesses are doing a great job providing a location that is clean and a place for them to store their milk. But, still having the time to pump while you’re working, even with a hands-free pimp is still not an easy thing for our families,” Thomas said.

Brewer adds that one of the best things moms can do is be prepared.

“While they’re pregnant, it’s a great time to meet with us before they deliver, letting them know what to expect when they go to the hospital or wherever they are delivering. (We also) make sure you have a support system around you. Making contact with us allows moms to know who to reach out to when things are challenging. We see moms throughout the whole process,” Brewer said.

“We are so blessed to get to walk with families in the journey,” said Kathy Thomas, owner of Indy Lactation Care.

In central Indiana, local lactation consultants help moms and babies navigate nursing by making house calls. Thomas says the house calls are catching on, and 80% of the time it’s covered by insurance.

“You can have that prenatal visit. You can visit as often as you want. 100% paid for by your insurance company,” she said.

Brewer added, “Every mom’s breastfeeding experience is different. But there are benefits to be had for mom and baby – whatever that situation looks like.”

According to the CDC, breast milk protects babies against illness, and shared antibodies help their immune systems. Breastfeeding also helps reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

Thomas said, “The longer we breastfeed, the more health benefits for both mom and baby. World breastfeeding week gives us the opportunity to get the word out and say not only is human milk the best option for your baby – but when you have that as a resource, but also, there is help out there.”