Wellness Wednesday: World Breastfeeding Week

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SPEARFISH, S.D. -

Aug.1 marked the 25th annual World Breastfeeding Week, encouraging good health practices for parents with newborns.

Dr. Kristen Prescott, with the pediatrics team at Spearfish Regional Medical Clinic, says both babies and mothers benefit from breastfeeding.

“For babies, because of the special immune properties of breast milk, it has been shown to decrease the rate of ear infections, of respiratory illnesses, vomiting and diarrhea illnesses, and obviously, decrease the rate of hospitalizations due to these illnesses,” Prescott said.

Studies show breastfeeding can help prevent the development of ovarian and breast cancer, as well as postpartum depression. In fact, nearly 80 percent of South Dakota mothers breastfeed. However, that percentage drops significantly when mothers hit the 6 to 12 month mark, which is also seen nationwide.

“We are doing a very good job here in the United States,” Prescott said. “Because now, 77 percent of new moms are initiating breastfeeding after birth, and that is up from 60 percent a decade ago. We have a long way to come, however, because at 6 months of age, only 22 percent of moms are still breastfeeding.”

More than 300 businesses across South Dakota have signed online pledges to provide an environment where mothers can enjoy a welcoming attitude from staff, management and other patrons while breastfeeding.

“I think going back to work is very hard. I know that employers all around South Dakota have been very supportive of moms breastfeeding and going back to work, allowing them to pump,” Prescott said. “I think that that is a barrier for some moms.”

Not only does breastfeeding offer health benefits, but your wallet may benefit as well. According to a recent study in the Journal of Pediatrics, breastfeeding also has an economic impact.

“It showed that if 90 percent of U.S. families breastfed for the first 6 months of life, there would be a $13 billion savings per year,” Prescott said. “This savings is in many aspects. First off, the decrease in illness, doctors visits, hospitalizations - and as a result of those illnesses, parents are missing work, lost wages - lost productivity. And that study is pretty amazing.”

There are classes and support groups throughout the Black Hills to help support new moms as they are beginning to breastfeed.

To view other Wellness Wednesday stories on our website, click here.

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