The Shelby County Breastfeeding Coalition continues its rollout of a new marketing campaign across the city to raise awareness about the importance of breastfeeding and how it contributes to the overall health of the mother and child.
Memphis/Mid-South Breastfeeding Coalition has started an ad campaign that includes this billboard at Thomas Street and Frayser Boulevard.
(Photo: Lance Murphey)
New images can be seen on a billboard at 3351 Thomas Ave. and transit signs at bus stops in strategic locations around town.
“The goal is to raise breastfeeding awareness in our community,” said Dr. Julie Ware, chair of the SCBC and physician at All Better Pediatrics. “We have one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the country here in Shelby County, so we are working hard to change that.”
The initiation of breastfeeding rate in Memphis in 1998 was reported as only 3 percent in underserved areas. Since then, rates of overall initiation of breastfeeding have risen in Shelby County, climbing to 42.7 percent by 2004 and to more than 60 percent by 2010, according to the Shelby County Health Department.
Babies who are not breastfed are at increased risk for infectious diseases, diabetes, asthma, SIDS and obesity.
“It is really important for our community to know that obesity prevention begins with breastfeeding,” Ware said.
Mothers who do not breastfeed are at increased risk of ovarian and breast cancer as well as post-partum depression, obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
Tennessee breastfeeding initiation was 64.3 percent compared to national initiation rates of 76.9 percent for babies born in 2009, according to the 2012 CDC Breastfeeding Report Card. African-American women in Shelby County are also breastfeeding more, climbing from 26 percent in 2004 to 50 percent in 2010, and local breastfeeding rates have more than doubled.
“What is alarming and concerning is that the disparity in breastfeeding rates in Shelby County among Caucasian and African-American women is quite significant,” Ware said.
Recent SCBC ad efforts also include a billboard in 2007 as well as a billboard and 10 transit signs in 2009.
“This phase was developed to target women who are least likely to breastfeed,” Ware said.
“It is really important for our community to know that obesity prevention begins with breastfeeding.”
–Dr. Julie Ware
Chairwoman, Shelby County Breastfeeding Coalition
The images were shot by photographer Alex Ginsburg of Alex Ginsburg PHOTOgraphics, who donated his time, and funding for the project came from the Shelby County Infant Mortality Reduction Initiative.
“Young mothers in poverty are the ones least likely to breastfeed,” Ware said. “That is true across the nation, but especially so here. Low breastfeeding rates are also very much correlated with areas of high infant mortality rates, so we are targeting those areas. Infant mortality rates are reduced by 20 percent when women breastfeed. If we support moms to do this optimal feeding for their babies, I think we can make a difference.”
According to the World Health Organization, breast milk gives infants all the nutrients they need for healthy development, and it contains antibodies to help protect infants from common childhood illnesses such as diarrhea and pneumonia, the two primary causes of child mortality worldwide. Infant formula does not contain the antibodies found in breast milk.
Barriers to breastfeeding can include a lack of lactation rooms at a mother’s workplace or even self-consciousness about breastfeeding in public.
In March 2010 President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the Reconciliation Act of 2010. The law amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to require an employer to provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth.
“This needs to be something that we grow as a community to support and encourage,” Ware said. “The more people who have friends and aunties and mothers and sisters who breastfeed the more likely that individual will be to initiate breastfeeding.”
The SCBC formed in 2003 as a countywide volunteer collaborative of public and private partners with the goal of helping to implement the Healthy People 2010 breastfeeding goals within Shelby County.
The coalition is now working on creating a one-stop resource list for breastfeeding information that will be available on the SCBC website and from lactation consultants at all area birth hospitals by the end of January.