Aug 1, 2023
Not only is August sure to bring cooler temperatures, it is also Breastfeeding Awareness Month! In New Mexico, our theme this year is “Reclamation begins with skin to skin.” This phrase is intended to honor the healing power of breastfeeding /chestfeeding, as well as acknowledge the many injustices that have caused harm over generations to countless New Mexicans. Explains Amanda Singer of the Navajo Breastfeeding Coalition, “We want to help people with the support they need to make lactation work for them. It won’t cure everything, but it will foster important emotional bonds between parent and child, benefitting both of them–and those benefits will ripple out into our larger communities.”
You may know a lot about the benefits of human milk, but here are some reminders. Numerous major health organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend exclusive breastfeeding/chestfeeding for the first 6 months of an infant’s life and continued breastfeeding/chestfeeding for at least 2 years and beyond; not only is it a great source of nutrition for babies, it protects them against an array of illnesses and infections. Babies who are fed human milk have less chance of developing asthma, obesity, and diabetes. They are also less likely to have stomach viruses and ear infections, among other conditions. Because human milk includes the parent’s antibodies, it supports babies’ immune systems which also keeps them healthy. For the breastfeeding or chestfeeding parent, the act of feeding is protective against some cancers, diabetes, and high blood pressure. It also supports the emotional connection between the parent and baby, a key part of reclaiming healthy, positive relationships.
“Unfortunately, many families experience barriers to achieving their own breastfeeding or chestfeeding goals,” explains Monica Esparza of the New Mexico Breastfeeding Taskforce. She adds, “For families who are not able to provide their own human milk, human donor milk should be available, as well as policies that support family success, including the Family Medical
Leave Act.” She also notes that there should be education and support for families who choose to formula feed.Black Health New Mexico’s Jazzy Lamboy adds, “As a doula, one of the conversations I make sure to have with my clients prenatally is the importance of immediate skin-to-skin contact after birth. There are so many benefits of skin-to-skin for both parent and baby, including to help regulate the baby’s heart rate and breathing, promote breastfeeding/chestfeeding, and reduce stress for both the birthing and non-birthing parent. For the BIPOC community, it is important to see images of BIPOC folks breastfeeding and having skin-to-skin. These images are rare in the media, and seeing someone who looks like you who is doing skin-to-skin and breastfeeding is empowering and encouraging in your own journey.”
National Breastfeeding Month consists of Global Breastfeeding Awareness Week from August 1-8, followed by the week of August 8th as Indigenous Milk Medicine Week. The week of the 15th has been named by the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Island communities as one intended to “Tell our stories and lift our voices.” Black Breastfeeding Week follows with a theme of “Celebrating connection and our communities” and finally, Lactancia Latina wraps up the celebration the first week in September. Whatever your community, there is information to be learned and shared! If you have any questions, a great place to start is with the New Mexico Breastfeeding Taskforce. You can find them at: https://breastfeedingnm.org/ or tel: (505) 395-MILK. Thank you for helping New Mexico families give their babies a healthy start!