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Atrium Health Navicent Physicians Urge Community Support for Breastfeeding Mothers

National Breastfeeding Awareness Month is observed each August and highlights benefits for mothers and babies

Studies have demonstrated considerable health benefits for mothers who breastfeed their babies for 12 months, and for their babies. As part of Atrium Health Navicent’s continuing commitment to address Georgia’s high rate of maternal mortality and improve outcomes for mothers and babies, physicians urge the community to support breastfeeding mothers and join in raising community awareness during National Breastfeeding Awareness Month.

Georgia has the second-highest maternal mortality rate in the nation. Black women in Georgia are three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women nationally, according to data from the CDC. Black Breastfeeding Week is observed Aug. 25-31 and seeks to build support for lactating mothers through cultural empowerment, community engagement and racial equity.

While more than 80 percent of non-Hispanic white mothers and Hispanic mothers breastfeed their babies, just 64 percent of Black mothers choose to nurse, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Black mothers are disproportionately more likely to suffer from chronic illness, stress, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder which are known risks associated with lower breastfeeding rates. Low-income mothers also have been shown to have less personal social support from family and friends, and less flexibility at work to support breastfeeding, according to the CDC.

“Human breast milk is the preferred nutrition for all infants -- especially those born premature – and provides babies with a lower risk for ear infections and respiratory illnesses, and less of a chance of developing illnesses later in life such as childhood obesity, high cholesterol, allergies diabetes and childhood cancers,” said Dr. Mitch Rodriguez, a neonatologist and medical director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and business development officer for Atrium Health Navicent Beverly Knight Olson Children’s Hospital.

Studies have also shown that breastfeeding reduces the risk of hypertension as well as breast, ovarian and thyroid cancers for the mother, and creates a strong bond between mother and child. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released new recommendations this summer, extending the prior guidance for breastfeeding duration from 1 year to 2 years and beyond. These recommendations align with guidelines provided by the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Family Physicians.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in Georgia, 80 percent of mothers initiate breastfeeding, but only 30 percent continue to breastfeed for 12 months. Atrium Health Navicent The Medical Center and Atrium Health Navicent Baldwin offer mothers both inpatient and outpatient lactation support. The health system also offers a Breastfeeding Basics virtual class which teaches how breastfeeding works, how to establish a good milk supply, how to help your baby latch, how to position your baby for breastfeeding and how to determine if your baby is getting enough milk.

For more information about the virtual class, or to register, visit navicenthealth.org/childbirthclass. For information about lactation support at Atrium Health Navicent The Medical Center, call 478-633-2771. For information about services available at Atrium Health Navicent Baldwin, call 478-776-4341.

Atrium Health Navicent Beverly Knight Olson Children’s Hospital’s milk depot is accepting donations from eligible mothers who have excess milk supply. Each ounce of donated milk can provide nutrition for up to four premature babies. Donors undergo a health screening prior to donation and milk is processed by The King’s Daughters Milk Bank in Norfolk, Va., prior to distribution to care for premature babies at no cost to families or donors. For more information about milk donation, call 478-633-0319.

About Atrium Health Navicent

Atrium Health Navicent is the leading provider of healthcare in central and south Georgia and is committed to its mission of elevating health and wellbeing through compassionate care. Atrium Health Navicent provides high-quality, personalized care in 53 specialties at more than 50 facilities throughout the region. As part of the largest, integrated, nonprofit health system in the Southeast, it is also able to tap into some of the nation’s leading medical experts and specialists with Atrium Health, allowing it to provide the best care close to home – including advanced innovations in virtual medicine and care. Throughout its 125-year history in the community, Atrium Health Navicent has remained dedicated to enhancing health and wellness for individuals throughout the region through nationally recognized quality care, community health initiatives and collaborative partnerships. It is also one of the leading teaching hospitals in the region, helping to ensure viability for rural health care for the next generation. For more information, please visit www.NavicentHealth.org.