Editor’s note: We acknowledge and respect all individuals’ gender identity and gender expression, and we are committed to using inclusive language in our NCCARE360 communications. We are using the terms ‘parent,’ ‘chestfeeding,’ and ‘nursing’ as our way of remaining inclusive of the wide range of gender identities in our communities.
National Breastfeeding Month serves as a platform to educate and inform individuals about the numerous advantages of breastfeeding/chestfeeding for both babies and parents, as well as offer support for those facing common nursing challenges. Scientific research highlights the nutritional benefits that breast milk provides to newborns. Packed with essential nutrients, antibodies, and enzymes, breast milk not only supports a baby’s early growth and development but also bolsters their immune system, shielding them from a host of infections and diseases. Chest/breastfeeding nurtures a unique emotional connection between a nursing parent and their child.
By shedding light on the scientific, emotional, and societal benefits of chest/breastfeeding, we can work together to create a more nurturing and supportive environment for new parents and their babies. As we embark on this month-long journey of awareness and advocacy, let us remember that nursing is not only a method of nourishment but also provides a powerful connection between a parent’s and a child’s well-being.
In North Carolina, breastfeeding initiation rates have been on a positive trajectory, with approximately 81.6% of parents choosing to nurse their newborns. However, the duration of nursing often falls short of recommendations. Exclusive nursing rates tend to decline significantly by the time babies reach six months. Zooming in on Durham County reveals similar trends. Durham experiences a strong start with initiation rates around 89.7% between 2018-2019, but then exclusive nursing rates drop, indicating a need for continued support for nursing parents. Factors such as returning to work, lack of awareness, and inadequate support systems can contribute to this decline.
To gain more insight into National Breastfeeding Month and how it is playing out on a community level, we spoke to Love Anderson, founding member and current Operations Officer at Breastfeed Durham, an NCCARE360 network partner and all-around awesome organization serving Durham and surrounding counties. She also serves on the board of both Breastfeed Durham and their parent organization, Breastfeeding Family Friendly Communities.
Breastfeed Durham is currently working to implement Ten Steps to a Breastfeeding Family Friendly Community (BFFC), a designation that signifies when a community has made real strides to support all chest/breastfeeding families to succeed in their infant feeding goals, for the health of the child, family, and community. This project was started by the World Health Organization and the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute nine years ago to normalize breast/chest/human milk feeding throughout the community and in places where parents live, work, and play. The project has gained traction over the years and membership for Breastfeed Durham has grown from 20 members in the beginning to more 1,200 current members.
Breastfeed Durham’s centralized focus is on affinity groups that include a Black Breastfeeding Coalition, Tea and Milk Coalition (for Asian American, Native Hawaiian American, Pacific Island American, Southeast Asian American, Middle Eastern American, and refugees families), Coalición Pro-Lactancia Hispana serving Spanish-speaking populations, LGBTQIA+ Human Milk Feeding Coalition, and the Coalition for Native American and Indigenous People.
Each week of National Breastfeeding Month has its own dedicated theme. During the second week, themed Indigenous Milk Medicine Week that honors and promote breast/chest feeding in Indigenous communities, Breastfeed Durham held event with Native American and Indigenous parents to share their stories and to support one another through their journeys of processing racial identities and generational trauma. Love says that their attendees talked, cried, took a group photo, and were able to bond with their community. “It was really fun […] and the best event that we’ve done to date.”
Love also reported that the United States Breastfeeding Coalition is holding a fifth themes week for the first time, which falls in the first week of September and is targeted around the need of Spanish-speaking parents. September also hosts Hispanic Heritage Month so the entire month of September will be focused on supporting Spanish speaking families in Durham.
To learn more about Breastfeed Durham’s community events, visit https://breastfeeddurham.org/national-breastfeeding-month-2023-events/
“So much work to do but so much progress.” – Love Anderson, Breastfeed Durham
Love recognizes that the work isn’t over and celebrates how far they’ve come. “[There’s] so much work to do but so much progress!” she said. NCCARE360 is proud to work with Love and Breastfeed Durham to ensure that nursing parents have access to all the supports they need.
By understanding the importance of breastfeeding and implementing supportive measures like NCCARE360, we can work together to create an environment where parents feel empowered and confident in their nursing journey, paving the way for healthier babies, stronger bonds, and a brighter future for our communities.