Purpose To increase awareness about the benefits of breastfeeding for infants and their mothers at the Community Health Association of Spokane (CHAS) Maple Clinic, Spokane, WA, which serves low-income, homeless and uninsured patients. Project objectives included providing low-income pregnant women with information about breastfeeding to help them make educated decisions about feeding options for their infants, with the ultimate goal of increasing breastfeeding rates amount the patient population at CHAS.
Methods Data was collected on the nutritional and health benefits of breastfeeding for infants and for mothers, as well as breastfeeding trends among low-income women, through a PubMed search (keywords: breastfeeding, low-income). Information about breastfeeding was also gathered from a lecture at Sacred Heart Medical Center. The staff of the CHAS Maple clinic and the First Steps program at the CHAS clinic collaborated to determine the optimal means of distributing information to patients about breastfeeding.
Summary Breastfeeding is widely advocated by public health organizations and medical professional organizations as the optimum nutrition for babies during the first six months of life. Breastfed babies are less likely to suffer from infections as infants, or to develop obesity, diabetes, tooth caries, allergies, asthma, and lymphoma later in life. Studies have also found breastfeeding to be beneficial to mothers, decreasing rates of ovarian, uterine, and breast cancers, as well as helping women return to their pre-pregnancy weight more quickly. While breastfeeding rates are rising, low-income women have lower breastfeeding rates overall. The reasons for the disparity in breastfeeding rates between income levels are complex and multifaceted, but include lack of information and support, cultural discomfort with breastfeeding, and concerns about returning to work.
Conclusions At the CHAS Maple Clinic, information about the benefits of breastfeeding to both infants and mothers was distributed to pregnant women and to women who had recently given birth through posters in exam rooms and handouts. The posters and handouts are a simple and efficient means of distributing information about breastfeeding to help mothers make informed decisions about infant feeding. The benefits of breastfeeding, particularly the benefits of breastfeeding to mothers, are not fully appreciated in the bottle-feeding culture predominant in the United States. Education is an important first step in increasing breastfeeding rates, particularly among low-income women.
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