August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month

Courtesy Martha's Vineyard Hospital.

“There is a great deal of scientific evidence that confirms the importance of breastfeeding, both for babies and their moms,” said Joyce Capobianco, nurse manager of the maternity unit at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. “And in fact, some have called breastfeeding ‘the single most powerful and well-documented preventative means available to healthcare providers to reduce the risk of common causes of infant morbidity.”

In December 2016, Martha’s Vineyard Hospital achieved its designation as a Baby-Friendly Hospital, a global program launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The entire process took approximately three years to complete, and was a hospitalwide effort.

“Baby-Friendly is about the benefits of educating women about the benefits of breastfeeding, supporting them and giving them ongoing support after their release,” said Capobianco. “We need to demonstrate we’re educating women, and based on the information women receive, they make the determination of whether they want to breastfeed or formula-feed.”

Part of this education takes the shape of a breastfeeding support team. “The team is comprised of women in the community who have experience and an interest in promoting breastfeeding,” Capobianco said. “They go through an educational program to provide them with more information about breastfeeding, and some of its complications and problems, so they can better support women once they’re discharged and out in the community. The team is available 24/7, and can either help on the phone or actually make a home visit.”

Some problems can occur six or eight months out, for as long as the mother is breastfeeding. “The gold standard,” Capobianco said, “is that women breastfeed exclusively for six months — a year if they’re able to.”

One of the problems with breastfeeding in this country is that as a society, we oftentimes discourage it. “One of the challenges we face is that women often don’t really get the help from employers … there’s often no place to pump for women who go back to work and are still breastfeeding, and we’re saying this is important to society, and women should be given the time, the opportunity, and a clean private space to pump to get milk for their baby. Sometimes it’s frowned upon if a woman is breastfeeding in public — there’s a community stigma,” Capobianco said.

So let’s hope that National Breastfeeding Awareness Month will help get the word out that, according to the WHO and UNICEF, “Breastfeeding is a vital component of realizing every child’s right to the highest attainable standard of health.”

Breastfeeding benefits for mother

  • Decreased postpartum blood loss
  • Reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer
  • Reduced risk for Type II diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease
  • Promotes emotional health through the release of hormones prolactin and oxytocin


Breastfeeding benefits for newborn

  • Reduces the incidence of asthma, dermatitis, and eczema
  • Lowers the risk for gastrointestinal-tract infections
  • Reduces the risk of SIDS
  • Reduces the risk for obesity, diabetes, and leukemia.
  • Contains endorphins, which can help a baby cope with stress/pain