August is National Breastfeeding Month

Dr. Ruth Petersen, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, refers to breastfeeding as "...the clinical gold standard for infant feeding and nutrition, with breast milk uniquely tailored to meet the health needs of a growing baby." The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that infants be exclusively breastfed for their first 6 months. The Dietary Guidelines further recommend that breastfeeding continue alongside the introduction of other foods for at least 1 year; the AAP calls for this to continue for at least 2 years, or longer if desired.

Breastfeeding is considered the "gold standard" not only because of its nutritional value to infants but also for the variety of health benefits early breastfeeding provides to those infants as they grow. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of a variety of diseases and conditions in infants, including asthma, obesity, type 1 diabetes, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Mothers who breastfeed get their own health benefits, including reduced risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and ovarian and breast cancer.

Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to learn more about why breastfeeding matters.

Breastfeeding Support

According to the CDC's 2022 Breastfeeding Report Card, over 80 percent of infants born in 2019 received some breast milk to start with. The numbers began to fall off almost immediately, and by the 6-month mark, only 55 percent of infants were receiving any breast milk, with only 24 percent receiving it exclusively. Per the CDC, breastfeeding rates drop consistently once the family leaves the hospital or other birthing setting, suggesting the need for a stronger system of breastfeeding support.

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act is a national law that went into effect in June 2023. The law provides protections for pregnant, postpartum, and pumping workers. It also gives rights for accommodations while at work, including extra breaks, flexible scheduling to attend doctors' appointments, remote work, and more.

To learn more about the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, visit Know Your Rights.

WIC and Breastfeeding

A major goal of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is to improve the state of infant nutrition. The Alabama WIC Program offers resources to educate and encourage WIC mothers on breastfeeding, including but not limited to the following:

  • Assisting mothers with common breastfeeding challenges.
  • Access to free, unlimited support, including 24/7 access to Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) through the Pacify app.
  • Breast pumps and other breastfeeding aids to eligible WIC mothers.
  • Breastfeeding support from highly-trained WIC staff, including IBCLCs, designated breastfeeding experts, and WIC Peer Counselors. (Interested in becoming a WIC Peer Counselor? Visit the Alabama WIC Program at Career Opportunities.)

Visit the Alabama WIC Program's Breastfeeding page for more information, including additional resources and answers to frequently asked questions.

You can also visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture's WIC Breastfeeding Support site for more information.

Breastfeeding During Disasters

When large-scale disasters strike, breastfeeding is not something that should be put "on hold." In fact, it becomes even more important, as it provides infants with a safe source of nutrition that protects them from the risks of using contaminated water. Breastfeeding also helps protect infants from respiratory illnesses and diarrhea, conditions that are even more dangerous than usual for displaced families.

The Office of Health & Human Services Emergency Preparedness and Response has developed an infographic with more information on the importance of breastfeeding during disasters, including tips on how responders can help.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency's Individual Assistance Program provides assistance with breastfeeding during disasters.

The CDC has prepared a special section regarding food safety for infants after a natural disaster.

Breastfeeding Resources

To find lists of virtual breastfeeding classes, virtual breastfeeding support groups, and Mother's Milk Depot locations, visit the ADPH Perinatal Program's Breastfeeding page.

For information on breastfeeding while dealing with special circumstances, including diet, maternal or infant illnesses, environmental exposures, chemical exposures, etc., talk to your physician.

The CDC has information for healthcare providers on breastfeeding and special circumstances.

For further information, visit the resources listed below.