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Breaking barriers: The importance of getting a mother and her baby off to the right start hasn’t gone unnoticed by employers and others in Otter Tail County. The county’s Women, Infants and Children program is celebrating Minnesota Breastfeeding Awareness Month.

Otter Tail County Public Health Department’s Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program is celebrating Minnesota Breastfeeding Awareness Month in August. This year’s theme focuses on “Empower Parents, Enable Breastfeeding.” Community members, employers and health professionals can do a lot to support women and families, and help mothers and babies get a healthy start.

Breastfeeding Awareness Month helps raise awareness of the importance of support in empowering a mother to successfully breastfeed and reach her goals. Breastfeeding is one of the best investments in saving lives and improving health. Support from family, employers, child care, public health, and health providers all play a critical role in enabling a mother to breastfeed.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding is the standard for infant feeding. It provides essential nutrients and antibodies that boost an infant’s immune system, providing protection from childhood illnesses. Babies who are not breastfed are more likely to develop common childhood illnesses like ear infections and diarrhea as well as chronic conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, asthma and childhood obesity. For mothers breastfeeding leads to lower risk of breast and ovarian cancers, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Nine out of 10 Minnesota moms start breastfeeding, but three of those nine will stop breastfeeding before six months, according to the latest Centers for Disease Control breastfeeding report card. Only about half of Minnesota infants are exclusively breastfed by three months. WIC works to provide information to help women get a strong start with exclusive breastfeeding. Challenges women face to meet their breastfeeding goals include those they experience in health care settings, worksites and child-care centers.

That’s changing In Minnesota. Growing numbers of health care, child care, employers and health departments are working to address the barriers and make breastfeeding easier for new mothers.  Otter Tail County is a breastfeeding-friendly workplace and supports breastfeeding by making available comfortable nursing rooms for employees and those visiting county sites.

For more information, contact Otter Tail County WIC program at 218-998-8320 or ottertailcountymn.us/content-page/wic/.

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