The United States Breastfeeding Committee sponsors National Breastfeeding Month in August each year to promote the benefits of breastfeeding and build a public platform of support for babies, parents, families and communities. This year the theme is “Together We Do Great Things!” This theme serves as a reminder of the need for partnerships in building better health. National Breastfeeding Month provides a focused time to reflect upon current efforts, future outcomes and past traditions.
Currently, the Indian Health Service promotes breastfeeding education and support through the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative . There are eight hospitals across the IHS that are designated as baby-friendly. The IHS prides itself on building organizational capacity and practice-based resources, developing partnerships to advance breastfeeding, and incorporating breastfeeding education and support into its robust public health programs.
The Government Performance and Results Act goal is to achieve the target rate of 40% for the proportion of two month-olds who are mostly or exclusively breastfeeding. This prevention measure focuses on healthy behaviors and lifestyles, including infant breastfeeding, to prevent diseases. The most recent full year Government Performance and Results Act result in fiscal year 2021 revealed a final result of 39.2%, falling just short of the national target. This indicator serves as an outcomes measure for various quality improvement efforts throughout the Indian Health Service. Learn more about the national efforts to increase breastfeeding rates by exploring the Healthy People 2030 infants objectives .
In order to optimize successful breastfeeding experiences for birthing people and babies, health care providers serving in American Indian and Alaskan Native communities have a unique opportunity to help Native parents reconnect with the culture of breastfeeding and explore traditional beliefs and practices surrounding breastfeeding. Traditional beliefs viewed breastfeeding as more than nourishing babies the way nature intended, but also as a way to nourish a baby’s mind, body and spirit. Breastfeeding practices were shared through traditional story-telling, and breastmilk conveyed a mother’s life story, including her knowledge and culture. Traditional breastfeeding practices were a shared responsibility based upon kinship and extended family. These historical practices involving the larger community in breastfeeding support also relate to this year’s theme, “Together We Do Great Things!”
One simple way to get involved is by sharing tips for eating healthy while breastfeeding . The IHS also offers numerous other breastfeeding resources for both patients and providers on the Baby Friendly webpage.
Please join the Division of Nursing Services this and every month, in raising awareness of the unique needs of breastfeeding parentss and infants and determining how we can best partner with patients, providers and communities to raise the physical, mental, social and spiritual health of American Indian and Alaska Natives to the highest level.