Breastfeeding: School impact
School success is important, especially for elementary students who are growing, learning and growing. Despite the gains they’re making, a new report found that too many public schools do not place the right investment in this area, putting children’s health at risk.
“While many studies find that children who receive breastmilk have increased reading and math achievement, fewer kids in U.S. schools get breastmilk due to cost and delivery quality concerns,” Deborah Olson, lead author of the report and president of the Breastfeeding Coalition and co-author of the World Health Organization and U.S. Department of Agriculture-sponsored new study, said in a press release.
If you still need some more convincing, consider the 2013 National Breastfeeding Report Card, which states that only 41 percent of new babies are exclusively breastfed when they leave the hospital.
Since breastmilk produces antibodies that protect babies from things like diabetes and pneumonia, breastmilk supplements in addition to conventional food sources offer especially effective support for breastfed babies.
According to WHO, the monthly pediatric hospital visits for optimal breast milk supply for newborns in low-income countries cost less than one-tenth of one percent of annual household expenditures on food and less than one-thousandth of one percent of per capita national income.
That’s where the American Academy of Pediatrics, National School Nurses Association and National Health Education Resource Center (NHREF) come in.
Through a longitudinal study of health outcomes and policy in 168 U.S. elementary schools, researchers analyzed data from more than 32,000 breastfed and breastfed but formula-fed infants in 2011 and 2012.
“There is a cultural change needed in regard to parents’ attitudes about breastmilk,” noted Deborah Wright, who holds a doctorate in nursing and a doctorate in public health. “I hope parents will understand that breastfeeding is something their babies need, and they need to be open to breastmilk and to the benefits of breastfeeding in a variety of situations.”
Researchers found that only 40 percent of non-breastfed but formula-fed infants had optimal nourishment; 17 percent had insufficient nourishment and other 17 percent had too much of either diet.
Of the group with inadequate nourishment, 32 percent had too little breastmilk; however, breastmilk was also very important in terms of facilitating growth and development, as well as decreasing obesity.
“The overwhelming message from this study is that breastmilk is more important than any other formula in terms of the health of babies,” said Anderson Kennedy, member of NHREF and associate professor at the Graduate School of Public Health and School of Nursing at the University of Minnesota. “We now know, through evidence-based research, that a steady supply of breastmilk helps sustain growth and development and also decreases obesity. It’s a privilege for all of us to be able to provide this critical resource for our children.”
To that end, research suggests that schools and nurses should refer parents to lactation services if they’re struggling to breastfeed.
Wright stresses that students can set this process in motion right now: “Every health educator has a chance to start by saying this is a really important resource that will allow your baby to learn to feed and spend more time with you.”
Weigh-in on raising a milk-magnet child here.