Celebrations Honor Breastfeeding Moms

Breastfeeding mothers are being celebrated all over the world this month, and Ohio Valley residents are joining the fun.

Each year in August – and specifically from Aug. 1-7 – the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action encourages local communities to tout the benefits of breastfeeding and recognize breastfeeding mothers and their children. The world focus this year is on getting younger people involved in the movement, and to that end a global flash mob is planned for Sunday, Aug. 7.

In the Ohio Valley, the local breastfeeding coalition is hosting its annual walk at the Ohio Valley Mall on Saturday, Aug. 6, and local maternal health agencies are hosting fun and educational activities all month long for breastfeeding moms and families.

In Belmont County, the commissioners at their July 28 meeting declared their support of breastfeeding by declaring August as Breastfeeding Month. The Belmont County Women, Infants and Children offices sponsored a Super Bowl night for families at the St. Clair Lanes on Tuesday.

“The whole purpose of the event was to get our moms to come out and honor them with a little reward,” said Claire Shorts, Belmont County WIC clinic and breastfeeding coordinator. She said about 40 people attended the evening event, during which the agency handed out door prizes and information, recognized each mom publicly and discussed the breastfeeding law – which states mothers are permitted to breastfeed in public wherever they are allowed to be when not breastfeeding, said Shorts, who also serves as co-chair of the Ohio Valley Breastfeeding Coalition.

Participants received a $10 Wal-Mart gift card and washable breast pads. In addition, the agency held a drawing for breastfeeding coverlets hand-sewn by labor nurse Becky Williams from Ohio Valley Medical Center, who is the coalition secretary. The money for the coverlets was provided through an Ohio Lactation Consultants Association grant, Shorts said.

The bowling event was sponsored by Molina Managed Care, United Health Care and St. Clair Lanes. Little Caesar’s Pizza provided pizza for a discounted price.

The local La Leche League International chapter, which holds monthly support group meetings in Wheeling and St. Clairsville, celebrated the week with a pool party for participants at Oglebay Park pool on Tuesday, said coordinator Theresa Warren.

In Jefferson County, the WIC office is marking breastfeeding month with a Baby Bonanza from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27 at Trinity West Hospital for its breastfeeding moms. The event will include freebies, information, raffles and fun, said Denise Bowman, WIC breastfeeding peer educator. Monroe County WIC will hold a picnic today, Aug. 4, and the Wetzel-Tyler County WIC office is giving a luncheon on Aug. 19.

Most of these offices will be represented at the Ohio Valley Breastfeeding Coalition’s annual Walk to Honor Breastfeeding Moms and Babies on Saturday. Registration begins at 11 a.m. at the main concourse of the Ohio Valley Mall in St. Clairsville; there is no charge to participate. The indoor walk begins at noon. Cake and refreshments will be available, as well as face painting for children, a Chinese raffle and a 50/50 raffle, with proceeds benefiting the coalition.

“We do this to raise awareness of breastfeeding and support for mothers and babies,” said Janet Medovic, lactation consultant for OVMC and East Ohio Regional Hospital in Martins Ferry, and coalition treasurer.

Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics for babies up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with the feeding of solid foods at least until age 1 but ideally until age 2. Benefits are outlined in the box at right.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report in its 2001 Breastfeeding Report Card an overall increase in breastfeeding nationwide, with a 5 percent increase in exclusive breastfeeding at age 3 months and 4 percent increase at age 6 months. The report cards show state rates for West Virginia and Ohio have actually decreased in some categories since 2007, when the CDC first released a report card.

In West Virginia, the percentage of babies ever to be breastfed dropped from 59.3 in 2007 to 53.0 in 2010 and then rose again to 54.1 for 2011. The rate of infants breastfeeding at 6 months dropped from 14.0 percent in 2007 to 11.9 percent in 2010.

Ohio has seen a steady increase in infants ever breastfed and those breastfeeding at 6 months, but a decline since 2007 in the percentage breastfeeding at 12 months and exclusively breastfeeding at 3 months and 6 months.

Shorts said in Belmont County, there is now a 41 percent initiation rate for breastfeeding, which is an increase over previous years but is well short of the state rate of 66.8 percent.

“And we are still not seeing the duration,” Shorts said. She added the Ohio Department of Health is conducting a research study through Ohio University to find out “why women in Appalachian areas choose not to breastfeed,” she said. Researchers will be in the county on Aug. 15 to interview a focus group of 15 Belmont County moms on the subject.