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Nurses for breastfeeding: policy alert.

Breastfeeding is one of the HealthyPeople 2020 objectives, as it is an essential public health strategy that improves child morbidity and mortality rates, maternal morbidity rates, and health care costs. Breastfeeding is one of the most effective health promotion and disease prevention measures a mother can take. It helps prevent children from having type 2 diabetes, obesity, asthma, ear infections, respiratory tract infections, and gastrointestinal infections. Children who are breastfeed have a 72 percent reduction in the risk of hospitalization as compared to formula-fed infants. Also, breastfeeding has been found to be protective against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. In addition to the benefits breastfeeding provides infants and children, it also helps prevent mothers from having breast cancer, ovarian cancer and type 2 diabetes. Women who breastfeed their infants for one year can decrease their risk of breast cancer by 23 percent, their risk of ovarian cancer by 21 percent, and their risk of type 2 diabetes by 12 percent. In addition, women who breastfeed their infants are less likely to have postpartum depression and osteoporosis. Furthermore, health care costs can be greatly reduced if mothers breastfeed their infants. If 90 percent of American mothers breastfeed their infants for six months, the United States would save $13 billion per year.


The promotion of breastfeeding is vital to the welfare of infants in the United States. Even though breastfeeding promotes health and disease prevention, there are few children who are actually breastfed. In 2011, although 75% of babies were initially breastfed, only 15% were exclusively breastfed six months later. This statistic is far short of the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) recommendation that mothers should breastfeed for at least 12 months. There are multiple barriers that contribute to this statistic: lack of knowledge about the benefits of breastfeeding, lack of support from family and social networks, lack of workplace support, lack of hospital practices that support breastfeeding, and media and marketing which support formula use. Among the potential barriers to breastfeeding, one of the most significant barriers to starting and continuing to breastfeed is a mother having to return to the workforce. Barriers that have been identified in the workforce include lack of privacy and a location to express breast milk (often having to express milk in the restroom), pressure from supervisors and peers to not breastfeed at work, concern about job security, and having no place to store expressed breast milk.

As a result of the barriers women face in the workforce regarding breastfeeding, President Obama signed a law to help alleviate some of the issues. It is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, Section 4207. This law requires an employer to allow reasonable breaks for employees to express breast milk for one year after a child's birth. In addition, the employer must provide a location free from intrusion and other than a bathroom for employees to express breast milk. I want to raise your attention to this law because nurses are truly at the forefront to provide support, promotion and information about breastfeeding since we are patient caretakers, advocates, educators, administrators, practitioners and policy makers. Many women are uninformed about this law, and nurses can be the relater of this information in a culturally-sensitive manner with the recognition that not all women can or will choose to breastfeed. In addition, if nurses educate their patients, peers, employers, employees, policymakers, students, and communities about this law, there can be greater national awareness and promotion. Thus, if nurses promote awareness about this law, more women will realize they are legally allowed and supported to continue breastfeeding after they return to work. As a result, more women may be apt to start breastfeeding and continue breastfeeding longer. Ultimately, the health status of individuals in the United States will greatly improve. May I encourage you to take this information and promote education and awareness about this law for the well-being of humans, society, and health care. Thank you for your support!


Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. (2007). Breastfeeding and Maternal and Infant Health Outcomes in Developed Countries (AHRQ Publication No. 07-E007). Retrieved from

American Academy of Family Physicians. (2010). Study: Following Breastfeeding Recs Could Save U.S. $13 Billion Each Year. Retrieved from

American Academy of Pediatrics. (2005). AAP Policy. Retrieved February 11, 2012, from;100/6/1035

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Breastfeeding. Retrieved from

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 111-148, [section] 4207, 124 Stat. 119 (2010). Retrieved from

United States Breastfeeding Committee. (2011). Workplace Support in Federal Law. Retrieved from

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. (2008). Primary Care Interventions to Promote Breastfeeding: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement (AHRQ Publication No. 09-05126-EF-2). Retrieved from

Written by Laura Seabolt, BSN RN
COPYRIGHT 2012 South Carolina Nurses Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Chapters
Author:Seabolt, Laura
Publication:South Carolina Nurse
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2012
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