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Childhood nutrition is essential for the healthy development and growth of children. The World Health Organization has identified breastfeeding as one of the best ways to ensure an infant’s health. According to the World Health Organization, exclusive breastfeeding should occur for the first six months of life, followed by continued breastfeeding with appropriate complementary foods for up to two years or beyond. Through breastfeeding, an infant receives antibodies that help fight disease and heighten the immune response to some vaccinations. Children who are breastfed are found less likely to develop juvenile diabetes, heart disease or cancer before they reach the age of fifteen. Finally, mothers also experience benefits from breastfeeding such as a lower risk of contracting breast, ovarian and uterine cancer, and they are less likely to develop osteoporosis. Employers experience lower health insurance costs due to healthier employees and employee families.
Many states have laws that protect nursing mothers; these laws range from regulating breastfeeding in public, to protecting nursing mothers in the workplace. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, amended section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act, by requiring employers to provide nursing mothers with reasonable time and appropriate space to express milk. In addition, on January 20, 2011, the U.S. Surgeon General put out a “Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding”. This “Call to Action” outlined the steps that families, communities, employers and health care professionals can take to remove some of the barriers faced by women who want to breastfeed their babies.
As support for breastfeeding continues to grow, additional laws and policies at both the state and federal level will need to be formulated. Through law and policy, the needs of nursing mothers will be addressed, and the benefits of breastfeeding for infants, mothers, employers, and our healthcare system overall will be allowed to continue.
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This publication outlines the benefits, best practices, considerations and legal requirements of breastfeeding with an emphasis on childcare providers.