WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley and Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) announced today that they are leading a Senate resolution marking the first week of August as “World Breastfeeding Week” and the month of August as “National Breastfeeding Month.”
Joining Merkley and Duckworth on the resolution are Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Angus King (I-ME), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Mazie Hirono (D-HI).
In addition to honoring World Breastfeeding Week and National Breastfeeding Month, the resolution calls for “support[ing] policies and funding to ensure that all mothers who choose to breastfeed can access a full range of appropriate support from child care and health care institutions, health care insurers, employers, researchers, and government entities.”
“Every new mother who wants to breastfeed should have the support and resources necessary to make it possible,” said Merkley. “By continuing to raise public awareness and support for breastfeeding, we can help overcome the stigma and barriers that still stand in the way.”
“Breastfeeding plays a critical role in children’s development and helps reduce the risk of life-threatening diseases for children and mothers alike,” said Duckworth. “I’m proud to join Senator Merkley in introducing this resolution to help raise awareness about its life-long health benefits.”
The Merkley-Duckworth resolution is supported by a wide range of advocacy groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, First Focus Campaign for Children, MomsRising, National WIC Association, and the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee.
“Breastfeeding is one of the most highly effective preventive measures a mother can take to protect the health of her infant and herself,” said American Academy of Pediatrics President Colleen Kraft, MD, MBA, FAAP. “It provides protection against newborn, infant and child infections, allergies, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease and sudden infant death syndrome. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends breastfeeding as the preferred feeding method for all infants, and applauds the resolution designating August as National Breastfeeding Month and the first week of the month as World Breastfeeding Week. As pediatricians, we commend these critical efforts to support and promote breastfeeding both in our country and around the world.”
“Breastfeeding is the optimal choice for infants. It has extensive health benefits for mom and baby and it’s cost-effective,” said Bruce Lesley, President, First Focus Campaign for Children. “Unfortunately, many moms across the US and around the world want to breastfeed, but don’t have the support they need. World Breastfeeding Week and National Breastfeeding Month will be a great opportunity to advocate for policies and programs that help women, especially low-income women of color, breastfeed their babies so they get the best possible nourishment.”
“We need to do all we can to promote and support breastfeeding, which improves the health of both babies and mothers,” said MomsRising executive director and CEO Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner. “Right now, too many barriers make it difficult or impossible for moms to breastfeed their children for the recommended six months and these barriers contribute to health disparities and put children of color and their moms at particular risk. Raising awareness about the benefits of breastfeeding and making it possible for more moms to do so is essential to improving our public health and our economy. MomsRising, the online and on-the-ground organization of more than one million mothers and their families, commends Senators Jeff Merkley and Tammy Duckworth for their resolution naming August National Breastfeeding Month and designating this week as World Breastfeeding Week.”
“The National WIC Association is grateful to Senator Merkley for his leadership in support of breastfeeding, particularly at a moment when some have chosen to politicize breastfeeding,” said Rev. Douglas Greenaway, President and CEO of the National WIC Association. “Breastfeeding is the optimal form of infant nutrition, but many families face barriers to breastfeeding success. Strong leaders like Senator Merkley reinforce a culture supportive of breastfeeding as the norm. We urge all members of the Senate to join Senator Merkley in cosponsoring this resolution. Supporting breastfeeding is not a political decision. It’s the right thing to do.”
“While 4 out of 5 families start breastfeeding after birth, there is a steep drop in breastfeeding rates in the following weeks and months,” said Amelia Psmythe, Interim Executive Director of the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee. “Many families face immense barriers in the places where they live, learn, work, play, and worship that keep them from reaching their own breastfeeding goals, especially in communities of color. But the solutions to eliminating many of these barriers are known and absolutely attainable. This resolution would demonstrate a commitment from policymakers to do better for our Nation’s families. Supporting breastfeeding is a public health imperative – it is a critical step toward achieving health equity, reducing health care costs, improving health disparities, and supporting families across the life course.”
The full text of the resolution is available here and below.
Title: Designating the first week in August as “World Breastfeeding Week”, and designating August as “National Breastfeeding Month”.
Whereas the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that breastfeeding continue for at least 12 months after the birth of a baby and for as long as the mother and baby desire;
Whereas the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action has designated the first week of August as “World Breastfeeding Week”, and the United States Breastfeeding Committee has designated August as “National Breastfeeding Month”;
Whereas National Breastfeeding Month focuses on how data and measurement can be used to build and reinforce the connections between breastfeeding and a broad spectrum of other health topics and initiatives;
Whereas World Breastfeeding Week and National Breastfeeding Month provide important opportunities to address barriers to breastfeeding faced by families across the United States;
Whereas, according to the 2016 Breastfeeding Report Card of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 81.1 percent of mothers in the United States, or about 4 out of every 5 mothers in the United States, start breastfeeding their babies at the birth of their baby;
Whereas by the end of 6 months after the birth of a baby, breastfeeding rates for mothers in the United States fall to 51.8 percent, and only 22.3 percent of babies in the United States are exclusively breastfed at 6 months of age;
Whereas 2 of every 3 mothers report that they are unable to reach their personal breastfeeding goals;
Whereas there are substantial racial and ethnic disparities in breastfeeding initiation and duration;
Whereas, in 2014, 85.7 percent of non-Hispanic White infants were breastfed, as compared to—
(1) 68.0 percent of non-Hispanic Black infants; and
(2) 79.5 percent of non-Hispanic American Indian and Alaska Native infants;
Whereas the Healthy People 2020 objectives for breastfeeding are that—
(1) 82 percent of babies are breastfed at some time;
(2) 61 percent of babies continue to be breastfed at 6 months; and
(3) 34 percent of babies continue to be breastfed at 1 year;
Whereas breastfeeding is a proven primary prevention strategy that builds a foundation for life-long health and wellness;
Whereas the evidence of the value of breastfeeding to the health of women and children is scientific, solid, and continually reaffirmed by new research;
Whereas, during the first year of the life of a baby, a family that follows optimal breastfeeding practices can save between $1,200 and $1,500 in expenses on infant formula;
Whereas a 2016 study of maternal and pediatric health outcomes and associated costs based on 2012 breastfeeding rates indicates that if 90 percent of infants were breastfed according to medical recommendations, 3,340 deaths, $3,000,000,000 in medical costs, and $14,200,000,000 in costs relating to premature death would be prevented annually;
Whereas the great majority of pregnant women and new mothers want to breastfeed but face significant barriers in community, health care, and employment settings; and
Whereas a 2016 study found that universal breastfeeding—
(1) could prevent 800,000 child deaths per year across the world; and
(2) is an invaluable tool for mothers to provide essential nutrients to protect newborns against infectious diseases in developing countries: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Senate—
(1) designates the first week of August 2018 as “World Breastfeeding Week”;
(2) designates August 2018 as “National Breastfeeding Month”;
(3) supports the goals of National Breastfeeding Month; and
(4) supports policies and funding to ensure that all mothers who choose to breastfeed can access a full range of appropriate support from child care and health care institutions, health care insurers, employers, researchers, and government entities.