It is public knowledge that Fresno's breastfeeding rates, as a whole, are lower than national averages and fall far below the goals that had been set by the Healthy People 2010 objectives a decade ago. Improving breastfeeding rates was seen as an important public health objective because "breast milk is widely acknowledged to be the most complete form of nutrition for infants, with a range of benefits for infants’ health, growth, immunity, and development." While health care providers, nurses, and lactation specialists strive to improve Fresno's breastfeeding rates through low cost classes, free support groups, and direct lactation care, the task cannot be accomplished without cooperation from the society that surrounds each new family.
Research has shown that one factor that is among the most influential when determining how successful a new mother will be with breastfeeding is her own confidence in her ability to succeed. If a mother believes in breastfeeding, and her natural ability to achieve success, she will more likely overcome the typical obstacles that cause other mothers to quit. For this simple reason, one of the best ways for everyone in this community to effectively contribute to the goals of improved breastfeeding rates is to offer verbal encouragement to new moms who are considering breastfeeding. Extended family members, friends, and coworkers can all play a role in supporting a new or expectant mother in her quest to breastfeed. Encouraging all mothers to succeed in breastfeeding can improve the general health of Fresno's society, as well as reduce health care costs which burden our economy.
One way to be encouraging to a new mother is to simply mention that she is making a smart choice. Remind her about at least one great thing you have heard about breast milk and its support of mom's or baby's health. Resist the urge to tell her about the horrible engorgement you may have experienced, or the bleeding nipple that made your friend quit nursing. Tell her instead of the many resources available to her if she should need some help. Offer to come by and fold some laundry while she feeds her baby, or bring her family a warm meal when they come home from the birth. All of these gestures can have a positive impact on a new mom's confidence and her focus on breastfeeding. In Fresno, if more people were encouraging to the new mothers in their circle of friends and families, we would see breastfeeding rates begin to climb.