Two Butler County organizations are working to educate mothers who are pregnant about breastfeeding, the latest initiative aimed at reversing the state’s high infant mortality rate, which is among the worst 10 percent in the nation.
Butler County is among the 10 worst urban areas in Ohio for deaths of children under age 1.
August is National Breastfeeding Month in Ohio and two local organizations are ramping up efforts to discuss the practice with mothers and bring about awareness of how it can help reduce infant death rates.
A recent study by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences revealed that children who are breastfed have a 20 percent lower risk of dying between the ages of 28 days and 1 year than children who weren’t breastfed.
“It’s like the baby’s first immunization,” said Elizabeth Manley, a lactation consultant for WIC, which helps income eligible women, infants, and children up to five years of age who are at health risk due to inadequate nutrition.
“Breastfeeding is like the gift that keeps on giving. Especially during flu season, because any infant under six months old cannot receive the flu vaccine. So by breastfeeding, and if the mother has has her flu vaccine, then she’s protecting her baby as well,” Manley said.
WIC and The Butler County Partnership to Reduce Infant Mortality (PRIM) have developed a campaign to educate mothers on the benefits of breastfeeding.
“We know that babies who are exclusively fed with breast milk have a lower incidence of SIDS,” said Cindy Meale, head of WIC in Butler County. “When breast fed, babies are more light sleepers and they are going to wake up more and want to interact with their mother and not so heavy sleepers, which means they will be awake more alert, and wanting to breast feed.”
Tracy Nau, a mother of three children ages 4, 3 and 7 months said she is glad she overcame hardships with breastfeeding and ended up doing so with her children.
“There wasn’t a whole lot of information out there when I started with my first two,” said Nau, a Liberty Twp. resident.
She ended up joining an online support group.
“Hearing from other moms about the normalcy of it all and hearing their stories helped me break down those walls,” Nau said.
Joining a La Leche league in addition to breastfeeding support groups on Facebook also helped, she said.
“You learn from experience and other people that the first couple of weeks of breastfeeding aren’t rainbows and lollipops. It’s difficult and it hurts, but it takes practice because you and your baby are learning. It is so easy to give up in those first few days if you don’t reach out for support.”
Making that support and education accessible to other mothers is one of PRIM’s focuses.
“We are trying to get more African-American women aware of how important breastfeeding is,” said Tara Ramsey, of PRIM. “And we want to get their families members involved for support. I think the message has been getting out more the last two years, but we have to keep working to do all we can to educate black women on the importance of breastfeeding their babies.”
Educating black women who are pregnant about breastfeeding is important because black babies are dying at twice the rate of white babies before the age of 1 in the county, according to data from the Ohio Department of Health.
PRIM has put together a “Celebrating Black Breastfeeding Week,” which includes prenatal breastfeeding support.
Events are planned from 1 to 2:15 p.m. Aug. 23 at the Parent Resource Center in Middletown and from 6:30 to 7:45 p.m. Aug. 29 at the Hamilton YWCA.
In Middletown, the group will continue to meet every fourth Tuesday at the Resource Center (800 Lafayette Ave., inside the Sonny Hill Community Center), and in Hamilton every fourth Monday at the YWCA (244 Dayton St.).
For more information about the breastfeeding support groups, contact PRIM at 513-887-3710.