NH DHHS - The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding Sets the Bar for New Hampshire

Concord, NH – On January 20, the US Surgeon General released the long awaited Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding. The Call to Action calls upon healthcare providers, employers, insurers, policymakers, researchers, and the community at large to take 20 concrete action steps to support mothers in reaching their personal breastfeeding goals. The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) supports these steps as the best way to help ensure babies have a healthy start.

Three out of four women in New Hampshire breastfeed their infants. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Breastfeeding Report Card, 78.6% of New Hampshire babies born in 2007 were breastfed, compared with 75.0% nationally. However, many moms stop breastfeeding due to barriers encountered along the way. In New Hampshire, 50.0% of babies born in 2007 were still breastfed at 6 months, compared with 43.0% nationally. The Call to Action highlights steps to help mothers overcome obstacles and for others to help reduce barriers in the community, worksite, and healthcare settings.

"Being a new mother is a difficult job, but with strong support from health care providers and the community, breastfeeding can be successful," said Dr. José Montero. “If society can make some relatively small changes to make this easier, we will go a long way toward improving the health of these children and set them up for a brighter future.”

The Surgeon General’s Call to Action is based on evidence about the health, psychosocial, economic, and environmental effects of breastfeeding. Some of the benefits shown through research include: unparalleled immunological and health advantages, the best nutrition for a developing baby, decreased incidence of obesity, decreased incidence of asthma, as well as a lower risk of breast cancer for the mother. The document includes action steps and start-up strategies for six major stakeholders:
· Mothers and Their Families: Emphasizes the need to educate and support mothers and families at breastfeeding.
· Communities: Discusses the importance of strengthening programs that provide mother-to-mother support and peer counseling.
· Health Care: Ensure that maternity care practices throughout the United States are fully supportive of breastfeeding and adopt evidence-based practices as outlined in the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative.
· Employment: Calls for paid maternity leave and worksite and child care accommodations that support breastfeeding women when they return to work.
· Research and Surveillance: Emphasizes the need for increased funding of high-quality research on breastfeeding.
· Public Health Infrastructure: Requests improvement of national leadership on the promotion and support of breastfeeding and the development of a national monitoring system to track breastfeeding rates.

The WIC Nutrition Program, Obesity Prevention Program, and the Maternal and Child Health Section at DHHS, Division of Public Health Services have established a breastfeeding workgroup to begin tackling the action steps.

Similar efforts have been an on-going priority for these programs for almost a decade, with a focus on the added health benefit of exclusive breastfeeding, but the Call to Action provides DPHS with specific strategies with which to continue working with contracted health agencies and clients to take a proactive approach to increasing breastfeeding support.

To view the Surgeon General’s Call to Action: Roadmap to Improving Support for Breastfeeding Mothers visit http://www.surgeongeneral.gov. To find breastfeeding resources in the State, the New Hampshire Breastfeeding law, and what programs are doing to support breastfeeding, visit www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/nhp/wic/breastfeeding.htm