INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Eric Holcomb declared the first week in August 'Breastfeeding Week in Indiana.' It calls attention to the benefits of nursing and the need to provide more places women can feel comfortable to nurse.
Indiana has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country. Breastfeeding can play an essential part in helping reduce that.
"Where am I going to feed my baby? It's very anxious," Sarah Long, The Milk Bank director of clinical operations, said. "Especially if you've got people potentially looking at you, where you are concerned that somebody's going to tell you, you can't do this."
Like many women, Long says she faced challenges with breastfeeding. One of her struggles were in finding the time and a place to nurse — especially while at work.
"It's very stressful," Long said. "We do have calls from moms saying, 'I don't know what to do. I know the laws are in place, but my employer isn't necessarily supporting me. How can you help me? I've got no choice I have to go back to work.'"
Although it's a woman right to breastfeed in the United States, there is still a stigma. Long works with The Milk Bank, which provides pasteurized donor human milk to premature and sick babies at hospitals, works to normalize nursing.
"This is a normal way to feed your baby. This is normalization," Long said. "And I think that's been a problem for quite some time."
"For the mom, they really reduce different types of cancer, heart disease, diabetes," Courtnie Leeper, Indiana State Department of Health breastfeeding coordinator, said. "They also help reduce the risk of postpartum depression. And then for infants, they reduce the risk of asthma, allergies, they promote healthy weight throughout the lifespan, and also cancers throughout childhood and as they get older as well."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 78 percent of babies are breastfed in Indiana — only a third continue at 12 months.
The State Department of Health recognizes the need to support moms to nurse in public.
Public places like the airport and malls have nursing rooms — but now, they've set up a Lactation Station RV at the Indiana State Fair and a "Mom Mobile" at the Colts Training Camp.
"Breast-feeding really supports mothers and infants health which are two very important things for the state department of health to focus on and the governor's office," Long said. "And so being able to promote it to make people aware of the benefits of breastfeeding is very important in being able to reduce those numbers for infant mortality."
To ease the anxiety of breastfeeding in public, The Milk Bank has the following tips:
- Practice breastfeeding at home with visitors
- Plan ahead and go somewhere you know that has breastfeeding accommodations
- Try an app like 'Mom's Pump Here' that can help you search for a private place to breastfeed.
- Invest in a good nursing bra and wear layers
August is also National Breastfeeding Month.