The United States government has launched a year-long national awareness campaign consisting of public service announcements (PSAs) for print media, radio and television, all to help the American public better understand the significant health benefits that breastfeeding provides to mothers and babies.
LifeCare, Inc. CEO, Peter G. Burki, strongly supports this endeavor and is calling upon the nation's employers to step up their own breastfeeding awareness efforts to help accomplish the campaign's objectives.
“This campaign is creating the perfect opportunity for corporate America to make two important contributions,” Burki states. “The first toward improving the health of our country's mothers and infants and the second toward enhancing the health and profitability of their own organizations. Study after study has demonstrated the health and businesses benefits of supporting breastfeeding in the workplace. So getting behind the momentum of this new campaign should be a no-brainer for the business community.”
Studies by groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the UCLA Center for Healthier Children, Families and Communities have shown that infants who are breastfed are more likely to have stronger immune systems initially than bottle-fed babies. Infants who are not breastfeed exclusively for the first six months may be more prone to developing asthma, allergies, obesity, ear infections and other illnesses in childhood. Two more studies published recently—one in the May issue of Pediatrics and a second one in Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews—suggest a decreased risk of death among breastfed infants and protection against Type 1 diabetes, respectively.
For businesses, Burki says, the benefits of workplace breastfeeding support are equally clear. They include significantly reduced absenteeism among working mothers, lower health care expenses for breastfeeding mothers and their children, and a speedier return to work following maternity leave.
The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Ad Council, which are jointly spearheading the new government campaign, are also calling for the cooperation of the nation's employers because of the strong influence they can have on working mothers' decisions regarding breastfeeding.
The new PSAs feature pregnant women in a variety of surprising scenarios. In one, an expecting mother is riding a mechanical bull in a bar; in another, she is competing in a floating log competition. The ads ask: “You wouldn't take risks before your baby's born. Why start after?” All of the PSAs carry the tagline: “Babies were born to be breastfed. Breastfeed exclusively for six months.”
Carol Ann Friedman, RN, IBCLC, director of LifeCare's Mothers at Work® program—one of the most comprehensive breastfeeding support models available—has counseled thousands of employees and employers on breastfeeding issues and calls the PSAs “extremely compelling.” Friedman says that she doesn't mind their edgy quality, especially in light of the fact that the U.S. has one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the developed world.