August is National Breastfeeding Month. The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) recognizes the impact that breastfeeding has on improving the health of families and communities. Through its Giftprogram, LDH works to support and promote breastfeeding across the state.
The Gift is an evidence-based program that works with Louisiana communities to implement consistent breastfeeding messaging, improve hospital practices that are proven to increase breastfeeding rates, and link families to local breastfeeding resources through an online database, LABreastfeedingSupport.org. Louisiana has 51 birthing facilities; 46 are registered with the Gift and are actively engaged with its efforts. 28 of those facilities have gone on to achieve Gift designation.
The Gift collaborates with LDH’s Women, Infants and Children (WIC)’s Breastfeeding Peer Counseling Program, which helps new moms address barriers to breastfeeding through education, support and role modeling. Peer counselors are recruited as current or previous participants of WIC, and the program is administered out of the local parish health units statewide. From January 2015 through April 2016, 142 WIC staff were trained as certified lactation counselors.
The Gift also works closely with regional Louisiana breastfeeding coalitions through efforts such as the Black Mothers’ Breastfeeding Club®, located in Shreveport. This club provides peer-to-peer support to build social networks and assist women with achieving their personal breastfeeding goals, in addition to addressing racial disparities that exist in breastfeeding support.
As The Gift continues building community infrastructure around breastfeeding, the Louisiana Department of Health recognizes Medicaid expansion as another opportunity to support breastfeeding moms. The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and breastfeeding is a key component to community health. The recent Medicaid expansion provides health insurance beyond the first post-partum visit which can assist moms with reaching their breastfeeding goals. More information about Medicaid expansion, including the new eligibility requirements, is available at healthy.la.gov.
Louisiana ranks 49th in the U.S. for children born in 2013 who were ever breastfed (60.9%) and who sustained breastfeeding at 6 months (31.2%). LDH is leading collaborative efforts statewide to help increase breastfeeding rates, and anticipates a positive shift in breastfeeding rates over the next few years. Increasing breastfeeding rates will help Louisiana reap some of the many benefits of breastfeeding, which include the following:
- Babies gain protection against sudden infant death syndrome, childhood infections and other illnesses including allergies, respiratory illnesses, and type 1 diabetes
- Moms who breastfeed a baby have lower rates of breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease
- Businesses have lower health care costs, lower absenteeism and employee turnover rates among breastfeeding parents, as well as higher employee productivity and workplace morale
To learn more about breastfeeding initiatives in Louisiana, please contact: Marci Brewer at Marci.Brewer@la.gov.Back to News