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NEWS | Aug. 18, 2008

Go for gold in infant nutrition

By Kay McKee 1st Medical Operations Squadron

Every August, more than 120 countries observe World Breastfeeding Month, a time to emphasize the importance of support from family, friends, employers and society. 

This year's theme is "Mother Support: Going for the Gold," referring to breastmilk as the gold standard in infant nutrition. 

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has set goals for increasing the numbers of mothers who breastfeed in its Healthy People 2010 goals: 75 percent of new mothers to be breastfeeding, 50 percent continuing for six months and 25 percent continuing for one year or longer. 

Anyone can help mothers "go for the gold" by:
- giving a mother the phone number of a certified lactation professional
- telling a first-time breastfeeding mother she is doing just fine
- bringing the new mother a nutritious snack and a big glass of water
- as an employer, accommodating a mother's need to pump with a private comfortable space
- as the baby's father, advocating for the mother, so she and baby can feel confident
- supporting enactment of legislation for paid maternity leave and mother-friendly workplaces
- assisting emergency relief organizations in supporting breastfeeding mothers and babies
- taking care of your health and nutritional needs during pregnancy and lactation
- setting up or joining a network of lactation experts in your community
- transporting a mother to a support group meeting or visit to a lactation consultant
- advocating legislation enacting the provisions of the World Health Organization and UNICEF Code of Marketing
- asking for support and offering support to others

Breastfeeding brings substantial differences in development and lifelong health. However many people are unaware of these advantages and of the disadvantages of feeding artificial formulas, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. 

The AAP Policy Statement, "Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk," is available at and emphasizes, "human milk is species-specific, and all substitute feeding preparations differ markedly from it, making human milk uniquely superior for infant feeding." 

The AAP recommends babies get human milk for their first six months of life, and continue to receive breastmilk along with solid foods thereafter for at least one year.

Human milk supplies a baby with the perfect balance of nutrients. It also contains antibodies and living cells, which protect from many childhood illnesses such as ear infections, diarrhea, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and leukemia. Lifelong benefits include a lower risk of diabetes, heart disease, digestive illnesses and obesity. 

Breastfeeding also enhances the bond between mother and child and reduces the mother's risk of developing osteoporosis, ovarian cancer and breast cancer. Mothers who nurse for six months prevent more than 25,000 U.S. cases of breast cancer yearly.

At Langley's birth center, roughly 85 percent of mothers choose to breastfeed. Supporting a mother's choice to breastfeed makes for healthier military families and fewer expenses to the family and the Air Force healthcare system. In support of healthier families, Air Force instructions require mothers be given time and a place to pump their milk once they return to active duty. 

The 1st Fighter Wing Hospital employs two part-time lactation consultants, Linda Pincus and Becky Deal, registered nurses, and one full-time lactation consultant, Kay McKee. 

Langley's LCs are fully certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners. They want women to know there is a great deal of help available to mothers with questions or concerns. 

"Breastfeeding is no longer a lifestyle choice, but a significant health decision for a mother and child," they said. "A well-latched baby doesn't hurt its mother, and only one or two women per hundred have a biologic condition which may prevent them from making enough milk. 

"Prompt, skilled, friendly help is only a phone call away, and usually any initial difficulties have been resolved by the third week," they continued. 

The 1st Medical Group Women's Health Clinic offers monthly prenatal breastfeeding classes and there is also a monthly breastfeeding support group, which meets at the Langley community center. Mothers who deliver at Langley are typically seen by an LC while in the hospital, and often again in the pediatric clinic a day or two after they are released. 

Military-connected mothers who have questions or concerns or who would like to schedule a free consultation can call the Langley Lactation Line at 764-9730.

Excellent breastfeeding information is also available online at,,, and at