Alaska leads the nation in breastfeeding
Alaska leads the nation when it comes to breastfeeding.
The Centers for Disease Control’s 2018 Breastfeeding Report Card shows more than 93 percent of babies born in Alaska in 2015 were breastfed at some point. That’s 10 percentage points higher than the national average.
The report card also ranks Alaska first for babies that are exclusively breastfed for the first three and six months.
As a working mom, Corrie Whitmore has her hands full with two little boys, 1-year-old Craig and 3-year-old Baird. She breastfed her oldest until he was a year old and is still breastfeeding Craig, who turned one last week.
“It gave us something that helped me bond with him and helped me slow down and take in those moments when he was a tiny infant and needed his mom, not anyone else,” Whitmore said.
She said Alaska has a strong support system for breastfeeding moms and there are extensive resources to help anyone who’s struggling with the process.
“In the hospitals, pediatrician's offices, in the community,” Whitmore said. “I've breastfed my kids everywhere and no one has ever given me dirty looks or said anything about the appropriateness of what I'm doing because I think most people understand this is how babies eat and so places where you take babies you need to feed babies.”
Hospitals like Providence and Alaska Regional have lactation consultants on staff to give new moms a hand.
I get the baby positioned, help with latch,” said Terriann Shell, a lactation consultant at Alaska Regional.
For 30 years, Shell has worked with families to give them the information they need when it comes to nourishing their babies.
“The support is really important for them to continue breastfeeding and getting past any difficulties that they've had and getting lots of good information as they go back to employment or school,” Shell said.
Whitmore said having a place to pump or feed at work is critical to allow moms to continue to breastfeed.
The University of Alaska Anchorage campus is home to Alaska’s first “lactation pod”. Whitmore, who is an assistant professor of health sciences, was instrumental in getting a $15,000 grant to bring a Mamava unit to the university last year.
“I was hearing stories of students pumping in their cars or trying to borrow spaces and it felt like a barrier for students who wanted to continue their education,” Whitmore said.
Both Whitmore and Shell recommended the La Leche League Facebook page, which is an online support group for breastfeeding. They also encourage new moms to take advantage of classes the hospitals offer -- even if they’re not sure they’re going to breastfeed.
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