Promoting a healthy start in life

Holy Cross Medical Center opens lactation room

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To breastfeed or bottle feed, that is a mother’s question.

There really is no wrong answer as both options offer an array of health benefits. It has been proven, however, that breastfed babies have fewer illnesses of the digestion and respiratory tracts, fewer ear infections, and lower rates of infant mortality and SIDS.

Children who were breastfed have less allergies, aren’t as prone to get eczema or asthma, experience fewer cases of childhood cancers, lower risk of diabetes types 1 and 2, lower rates of obesity, better immunity and improved brain maturation. Information provided by the Taos Chapter of the New Mexico Breastfeeding Task Force further states that adults who were breastfed as babies are also less likely to develop some autoimmune diseases, heart disease, multiple sclerosis and breast cancer.

Mothers who opt to breastfeed benefit as well: lowered risk of breast and ovarian cancer, autoimmune diseases, endometriosis, osteoporosis, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Not to mention the bond formed with their infants many mothers say wouldn’t happen through a bottle.

In an effort to promote breastfeeding among its employees, patients, visitors and the community at-large, last December Holy Cross Medical Center unveiled its lactation room. In late 2018, with assistance from the Latch On Breastfeeding Coalition and the New Mexico Breastfeeding Task Force Taos Chapter, advocates Pam Akin (chief nursing officer) and Renee Laughlin (compliance officer) encouraged the medical center’s Senior Leadership Team to create a lactation space for its employees and visitors.

Studies show that mothers are educated about the benefits of breastfeeding, but without sufficient support, it can be difficult. “Breastfeeding requires commitments of time and energy from family members and employers, as well as from the mother,” as stated in materials from the New Mexico Breastfeeding Task Force Taos Chapter. “Returning to work is often the time when a mother will abandon her plans to breastfeed if there are no accommodations for pumping milk or breastfeeding the baby on site (if the caregiver can bring the baby to the workplace).”

Latch On and the Breastfeeding Task Force recognize and honor every mother’s choice whether to breastfeed her baby based on her own unique health, family and workplace circumstances. The groups strive to ensure that mothers who do want to breastfeed have the support and advocacy they need.

Taos Chapter of the New Mexico Breastfeeding Task Force can be reached by calling (505) 395-6455, by email at contact@breastfeedingnm.org or visit the website breastfeedingnm.org/taos/.

Breastfeeding vs. baby formula timeline

Late 1800s: Commercially prepared infant formula in powdered form is born. Because it's expensive, however, many parents can't afford it. Through the 1930s and the Great Depression, most infants are breastfed through their first year.

1938: A watershed in United States history, the 1938 Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act is enacted. It pioneered policies to protect consumer's economic wellbeing and created food standards to unify the identity, quality and quantity of food in containers, to level the playing field regarding the value consumers could expect.

1940s: Most infants are breastfed until six months then fed cow's milk after that.

1951: Commercially prepared infant formula becomes available in concentrated form and moms love the convenience. Liquid concentrate infant formula is the predominant form of infant formula sold for the next 20 years. Still, in the early 1950s, most infants are breastfed until six months then switched to cow's milk because it's less expensive than formula.

1958: Breastfeeding is out of favor. According to a national mail-back survey conducted in 1958, only 30 percent of mothers of young infants reported their babies were either completely or partially breastfed at one week of age.

1960: Liquid ready-to-feed formula becomes available in the marketplace.

1970s: Breastfeeding rates continue to decline as more women enter the job market. Fewer than 25 percent of infants in the United States are breastfed in the hospital compared to today's standard of 75 percent.

1980: Breastfeeding is back in favor because of numerous government reports citing the advantages of breastfeeding. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services establishes its first ever national health objective for breastfeeding. The goal: By 1990, 75 percent of women breastfeed in the hospital and 35 percent are still nursing when their babies are six months old. Meanwhile, on Sept. 26, 1980, the Infant Formula Act of 1980, an amendment of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938, is signed into law by President Jimmy Carter.

1982: Breastfeeding rates peak, with 62 percent of moms initiating breastfeeding and 30 percent continuing to breastfeed six months later.

1989: Carnation® and Gerber®, two leading formula name-brands, begin advertising new baby formulas directly to consumers. Previously, infant formula companies in the United States marketed their formula to health-care professionals only. Health-care professionals express concern that advertising to consumers will negatively impact breastfeeding rates and infant health.

1990s: Breastfeeding rates rise again throughout the 1990s as more women begin to initiate breastfeeding in the hospital, and other public education campaigns and promotional efforts influence infant feeding.

1997: Store brand infant formulas enter the marketplace.

2000: Breastfeeding rates peak again; 68 percent of moms initiate breastfeeding in the hospital; 31 percent are still breastfeeding their babies at six months of age.

2011: The U.S. Surgeon General, Regina M. Benjamin, M.D., issues a "Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding," outlining steps to remove some of the obstacles women who want to breastfeed their babies may face, such as encouraging employers to allow nursing moms to have their babies close by so they can feed them during the day.

Today: Breastfeeding is going strong; 75 percent of moms start out breastfeeding in the hospital and 47 percent are still at it six months later. Still, baby formula continues to be popular, too.

— Sandra Gordon, consumer products expert

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