Promoting optimal child nutrition starts with breastfeeding exclusively (only breast milk) for the first six months of an infant’s life, as recommended by The American Academy of Pediatrics. Among babies born in Florida during 2015, most (82.6%) started out breastfeeding, but unfortunately, many babies stop earlier than recommended. According to the 2018 Breastfeeding Report Card released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 4 out of 5 (82.6%) started to breastfeed, over half (54.0%) were breastfeeding at 6 months, and one-third (33.5%) were breastfeeding at 12 months. Although over half of babies born in Florida were breastfed at 6 months, less than a quarter (21.3%) were exclusively breastfed. This is lower than the U.S. national 6-month exclusive breastfeeding rate (24.9%).
Breastfeeding is important because it provides developmental benefits for infants like mother-infant bonding, reduces a child’s risk for a variety of infections, reduces a child’s risk for chronic conditions later in life, and reduces mothers’ risk of breast and ovarian cancer. For example, infants who are breastfed have reduced risks of asthma, obesity, type 2 diabetes, ear and respiratory infections and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Despite these benefits, barriers may make it difficult for mothers to exclusively breastfeed. An assessment of barriers to breastfeeding found that many women in the U.S. are unaware of the specific benefits of breastfeeding and the risks associated with not breastfeeding. Other barriers include finding comfortable and accessible breastfeeding facilities in public places and having to return to work.
Child care providers can easily support mothers in their effort to exclusively breastfeed by providing encouragement and information. They can also provide a private, comfortable place to breastfeed or pump. Additionally, having systems in place to properly store and handle breastmilk will support mothers who are breastfeeding.
Supporting Breastfeeding ECE Best Practices
- Provide a quiet, comfortable and private space for mothers that wish to breastfeed.
- Allow mothers to breastfeed wherever they feel comfortable, not solely in a designated breastfeeding space.
- Have ample freezer or refrigerator space for expressed human milk and properly label expressed milk.
- Ensure that all staff are trained in the proper handling, storing, and feeding of each milk product, including human milk or infant formula.
- Share information about community-based breastfeeding support and culturally appropriate breastfeeding materials.
Florida Department of Health WIC: WIC is a nutrition program for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding or who have recently been pregnant, infants and children under age 5. The Florida WIC program promotes and supports breastfeeding. On this site, you can find encouraging posters and educational information focused on supporting breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding Friendly Childcare Facility: The Florida Department of Health, in partnership with the Florida Breastfeeding Coalition, developed a live webinar and online training module (available in English and Spanish) to assist all child care facilities with creating and maintaining an environment that promotes and normalizes breastfeeding.
La Leche League Sunshine State: La Leche League (LLL) is an international, nonprofit, nonsectarian organization dedicated to providing education, information, support, and encouragement to all women who want to breastfeed. Visit their site for breastfeeding resources and a list of support groups across the state.
Healthy Kids Healthy Future: Healthy Kids, Healthy Future is a nationwide call-to-action that empowers child care and early education providers to make positive health changes in children that could last a lifetime. On their website, you can find trainings and resources focused on supporting breastfeeding.