BARRIERS DIMINISH BENEFITS TO BABIES
-- Undue fears about production
of breast milk, possible conflicts with work or daily schedules
and nursing in public deter mothers from breast-feeding —
a practice that not only helps babies fight off illnesses but
also lowers rates of certain breast and ovarian cancers.
Now a new picture of the impact those barriers have on breast-feeding
has emerged as a result of a national survey announced this
month that documents just how many mothers nurse and for how
Only 34 percent of Houston mothers breast-feed at least for
the minimum recommended six months and their numbers decrease
to 17 percent at 12 months, according to statistics compiled
for the first time by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Also, 72 percent of Houston mothers have tried breast-feeding.
Houston breast-feeding rates mirror those for the entire state.
The national average for mothers who exclusively breast-feed
their babies for six months is 14 percent. August is World Breast-Feeding
As breast-feeding coordinator in the Women,
Infants and Children (WIC) program at the Houston Department
of Health and Human Services, Judy Fraley encounters first hand
many women’s lack of confidence when it comes to breast-feeding.
“Women worry that they will not be able to make enough
milk or that they will be unsuccessful at breast-feeding just
because they have heard of someone who was unable to breast-feed
their baby,” Fraley said. “In fact, the majority
of women can breast-feed. Even women who have had enhancement
or reduction surgery can breast-feed.”
Babies may be fed nothing but breast milk for the first six
months of life. Water, juice and other foods are generally unnecessary
during that time.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that breast-feeding
continue for at least 12 months, and thereafter for as long
as mother and baby desire. The World Health Organization recommends
continued breast-feeding up to 2 years of age or beyond.
Breast milk is the healthiest food for an infant and changes
to meet a baby’s nutritional needs. It contains antibodies
to protect a baby from disease and helps prevent sudden infant
Research studies have shown breast-feeding increases a baby’s
IQ, may improve vision and helps form healthy teeth and jaws.
Breast-fed babies have fewer bouts of diarrhea, ear infections
and respiratory infections. Nursing mothers also burn more calories,
making it easier for them to return to their pre-pregnancy weight.
Fraley said some new moms unnecessarily fear a loss of freedom,
many having the misconception that they will need to have their
babies with them at all times if they start breast-feeding or
that nursing will interfere with work or daily schedules. However,
women can use a pump to store breast milk and take care of most
of an infant’s nutritional needs.
“Moms can nurse prior to leaving work, pump at work if
possible and arrange for a day care close enough for a lunch
hour visit,” Fraley said. “If necessary, formula
can be given when mom needs to be away.”
Nursing mothers can store fresh breast milk in the refrigerator
for five days, in the freezer for three to four months and in
deep freeze for six months.
For moms embarrassed to breast-feed in public or even around
family and friends, Fraley suggests throwing a blanket over
a shoulder, tucking an infant under a loose fitting shirt or
unbuttoning one or two buttons on a dress or shirt. “Women
can breast-feed discreetly,” she said. “You don’t
have to remove any clothing.”
Prenatal education and early support provided by programs such
as WIC help mothers overcome other breast-feeding barriers.
The program provided nutritional education and nutritious foods
to a record 77,380 people in 2003.
For more information about breast-feeding support or WIC, call