August is national breastfeeding month and a great time to highlight the benefits of breastfeeding babies longer.
Research indicates that only about half of parents who started out breastfeeding after birth are still breastfeeding when their babies are six months old. Much of the drop-off can be attributed to the challenges parents face returning to work. The PUMP Act, which went into effect in April of this year, requires employers provide a reasonable amount of break time and a clean, private space for employees to pump for up to one year after they give birth.
Laura Corsig, an international board-certified lactation consultant and manager of lactation services for Novant Health’s Greater Charlotte Market, weighs in on the impact the PUMP ACT can have and tips to help women breastfeed longer.
Q. How long do doctors recommend you breastfeed and why?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breast milk from birth through 6 months, a combination of breast milk plus solid foods beginning at 6 months and continuing until baby is 2 years of age or longer as desired. Newborn and Infant Breastfeeding (aap.org)
Q. What percentage of women who are successful at breastfeeding actually make it that long?
In NC, about 83% initiate breastfeeding and 53% are still breastfeeding at 6 months. Breastfeeding Report Card | Breastfeeding | CDC
Q. Why are women stopping “early”?
There are many factors and most research suggests two factors as being most influential:
1. Prevalence of formula marketing to the healthcare industry and to individuals Breastfeeding 2023 (thelancet.com)
2. Lack of paid maternity leave, lack of support for expressing milk when back to work American Academy of Pediatrics Calls for More Support for Breastfeeding Mothers Within Updated Policy Recommendations (aap.org)
Q. Why is it important to continue past six months?
The benefits breastfeeding have for the baby are decreased risk of infections, decreased risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), and decreased risk of certain childhood cancers Breastfeeding Overview (aap.org). The benefits of continuing breastfeeding for the mom are decreased risk of premenopausal breast and ovarian cancer, decreased risk of diabetes, hypertension, and obesity Breastfeeding Benefits | ACOG.
Q. What is the PUMP Act, and how is it helping women breastfeed longer?
The PUMP Act extends the right to a wider group of workers (including nurses, teachers, taxi drivers) to take a break from work for the purpose of expressing milk for a child until the age of 1 year. It also requires the employer to provide a clean, private space (that is not a bathroom) to express their milk FLSA Protections to Pump at Work | U.S. Department of Labor (dol.gov)
Q. What are some ways women can extend their breastfeeding longevity? Tips, tricks?
- Take a prenatal breastfeeding class from a board-certified lactation consultant (IBCLC).
- Give birth in a location that is designated as a “Baby-Friendly Hospital.” These hospitals have been certified in providing the highest level of maternity care related to infant feeding including skin to skin immediately following birth, caring for family together without interruption, and supporting families to provide breast milk. Of course, if there is a medical reason that formula needs to be given or if parents choose to feed their baby formula, then that support is offered too. Including providing individual education on correct formula mixing, feeding, and storage techniques.
- After leaving the hospital, follow up with an IBCLC who can assess your baby’s feeding and individualize care to specifically meet the needs of you/your baby.
- If possible, join an in-person or online breastfeeding support group. Research indicates that families who have support from peers fare better and are more likely to reach their breastfeeding goals.