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Get a good start on breastfeeding month

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Last year’s Celebration and Stroll attracted about 300 participants. Organizers hope for more this year.
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Not normally the stuff of headlines, breastfeeding was in the news last week as a confrontation erupted over public breastfeeding at a swimming pool in Mora, Minn.

This week, then, seems like an opportune time for National Breastfeeding Month — August — to arrive.

The Olmsted Area Breastfeeding Coalition’s seventh Celebration and Stroll is a good way to get involved and learn more about breastfeeding and related issues, said Rebekah Huppert a lactation consultant at Mayo who is certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners.

The annual stroll is the group’s largest event, she said. Last year, there were about 300 participants.

But the coalition is hoping for more this year, and for those increased numbers to lead to even wider acceptance and broader understanding of the importance of breastfeeding.

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"We want to increase our breastfeeding rates, of course," Huppert said.

By the numbers

Statistics show that most mothers start with good intentions about breastfeeding, but that participation tends to drop off over the subsequent months of the child’s life.

About 90 percent of new Minnesota mothers start out breastfeeding their children, according to 2016 data from the Minnesota Department of Health.

The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for infants up to 6 months, then breastfeeding supplemented by age-appropriate foods up to age 2 and beyond.

Breastfeeding is associated with decreased risk of gastrointestinal diseases and other illnesses, optimal nutrition early in life and decreased risk of obesity later in life.

Initiation rates are, indeed, high at Mayo Clinic, Huppert said. However, there’s a sharp drop-off in the number that continues beyond two weeks. The drop-off is especially acute among mothers who originally decided to feed their children breast milk exclusively, as they decide that feeding their children a mix of breast milk and formula is a more sustainable option.

By age 6 months, about 65 percent of children are fed breast milk, and by age 12 months, that figure falls to 40 percent, according to 2016 statistics from the MDH .

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Need for reassurance

The sheer amount of time it takes to breastfeed a child, and the frequency of those feedings early on (many of which come at night), tends to drain new moms. Simply having reassurance that she will get through it can keep a woman going, Huppert said.

"It’s the day-to-day that can really make or break a woman with breastfeeding," she said. The Olmsted coalition, a group of Rochester community members, aims to provide that support.

Membership is fairly high, Huppert said — meetings usually have eight to 10 people.

The monthly meetings usually include representatives from Mayo Clinic, Olmsted hospitals, and other public health workers.

Not all of the public is on board, though.

Just last week, somebody at the pool in Mora called police to report a pair of breastfeeding mothers.

Later, dozens of mothers and children gathered at the pool for a "nurse-in" to protest the action.

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Minnesota law protects breastfeeding in public, whether the feeding mother is covered or not.

Huppert said she thinks public perception of breastfeeding is improving, but could be better.

"The awareness of the health benefits is rising … but we still have a long way to go," she said. "We’re into the turn, but haven’t quite gotten around the corner."

What:Olmsted Area Breastfeeding Coalition's seventh Celebration and Stroll

When:5:30 p.m. Wednesday

Where:Soldiers Field Park, 244 Soldiers Field Drive SW, Rochester

Information: www.facebook.com/events/452784415152194

More information:The Olmsted Area Breastfeeding Coalition ( www.facebook.com/olmstedareabreastfeedingcoalition ) meets the third Tuesday of each month from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Olmsted County Public Health, 2100 Campus Drive SE, Rochester. Meetings are free and open to the public.

Looking for more resources? These groups can help.

Rochester La Leche League: www.facebook.com/LLLRochester or lllofmndas.org/rochester.html . Meetings are 5:30 p.m. the third Thursday each month at Zumbro Lutheran Church, 624 Third Ave. SW, Rochester.

BeLoved MN: Prenatal education, lactation care, help and support, at  belovedmn.com .

Minnesota Department of Health:Links to useful information, including a page of frequently asked questions and information for employers, at health.state.mn.us/breastfeeding.

Mayo Clinicoffers breastfeeding resources, including classes on returning to work and school (information: 507-266-7473) and a Nursing Moms Network facilitated by a lactation specialist (information: 507-284-5143). See the full list of resources at tinyurl.com/ybph5or6 .

Related Topics: MAYO CLINICFOOD
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