Breastfeeding Rates Improving in New Jersey

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STATE As the state Department of Health highlights World Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1-7, and National Breastfeeding Month, Health Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd announced today that New Jersey breastfeeding rates improved according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2012 Breastfeeding Report Card.

The state’s breastfeeding initiation rate of 79.7 percent is above the national average of 76.9 percent. In addition, the report found that 47.9 percent of mothers continue to breastfeed at 6 months and 26.1 percent at 12 months, compared to national rates of 47.2 percent and 25.5 percent respectively.

“Breastfeeding support is an important strategy toward improving the health of New Jersey’s mothers and their children,” said O’Dowd. “We must continue to focus on providing better support in our hospitals and communities, and this will, in turn, help improve New Jersey’s breastfeeding rates.”

CDC’s Breastfeeding Report Card includes both national and state-specific data about individual behaviors related to breastfeeding, as well as data on support in hospitals and communities, which can either help or hinder mothers’ efforts to meet their breastfeeding goals.

To highlight the state’s commitment to improving breastfeeding rates in the Garden State, Deputy Commissioner Dr. Arturo Brito delivered remarks at the Monmouth-Ocean Breastfeeding Consortium annual breastfeeding seminar today, Aug. 1, at Neptune High School.

As part of his remarks at the conference, Dr. Brito will describe two key Department initiatives that focus on increasing breastfeeding rates in the state—Shaping NJ, and the Women, Infants, Children Supplemental Food Program (WIC), which provides supplemental nutritious foods to low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women, and infants and children up to the age of five.

WIC has encouraged and supported breastfeeding for over two decades and offers an enhanced food package for exclusively breastfeeding mothers. Throughout the month of August, many WIC agencies across the state will have special events to highlight the benefits of breastfeeding. For example, the City of Passaic WIC office will have a celebration for breastfeeding mothers on Aug. 3 from 1 to 3 pm.

As part of Shaping NJ, the Department invested $100,000 to support ten hospitals as they pursue a Baby-Friendly™ designation. The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is a World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) program that encourages and recognizes hospitals that promote and support breastfeeding. To receive Baby-Friendly designation, hospitals must implement a program called the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, which includes hospital policies and practices and staff education.

New Jersey’s grantee hospitals are making great progress in making their environments more breastfeeding friendly—for example—having newborns room in with their mothers rather than in nurseries and educating the entire clinical team on the negative consequences that early supplemental formula feedings have on the establishment of successful breastfeeding.

Two New Jersey hospitals achieved Baby-Friendly status this year—the first was South Jersey Health Care Elmer Hospital. The second was Capital Health Medical Center in Hopewell, which was one of the Department’s grantee hospitals.

Assistant Commissioner of Family Health Services Gloria Rodriguez will join Capital Health as they host the “Breastfeeding and Baby Care Learning Fair” on Aug. 14 at 1 p.m. The event will focus on area agencies and the ways they support new mothers in the community, emphasizing the importance of breastfeeding as an important step to good health and lower obesity.

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