August is National Breastfeeding Month


Thurston County Board of Health proclaimed this month to be National Breastfeeding Month during its meeting last Tuesday, August 8.

Thurston's Public Health and Social Services Division Director for Community Wellness Gretchen Thaller said she’s glad that the county is dedicating more staff time to raising awareness on the importance of breastfeeding.

“Breastfeeding is one of the most powerful ways to promote health and prevent disease in both the child and the parent,” said Thaller, referring to both its practice and initiation.

International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Sheila Waterstrat cited that 820,000 children globally would be saved each year If breastfeeding were scaled up to near-universal levels, with the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) reduced by 36 percent.

According to the Mayo Clinic, SIDS is the unexplained death of a baby, often happening during sleep, usually when it is less than a year old and seems to be healthy.

The proclamation stated that breastfeeding can also lower an infant’s risk of ear infections, asthma, respiratory infections, childhood obesity, type 2 diabetes, eczema and childhood leukemia.

“Breastfeeding is one of the most powerful ways to promote health and prevent disease in both the child and the parent,” said Thaller.

Mother holding baby in her arms.
Mother holding baby in her arms.

Benefits for moms

Aside from the child, the practice of breastfeeding also has benefits for mothers.

According to the county’s proclamation, breastfeeding can lower the maternal risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and certain breast and ovarian cancers.

Waterstrat projected that if 90% of mothers in the country were able to breastfeed for one year after every birth, an estimated 14,000 heart attacks could be prevented each year and 54,000 women could avoid treatment for hypertension.

Waterstrat also added that mothers who are positive for the BRCA1 mutation and breastfeed for at least a year have a 37% lower risk of breast cancer.

“Reducing this disease burden could save the US billions of dollars annually, preventing more than 4,000 Premature maternal deaths and close to 1,000 infant deaths each year,” Waterstrat said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes breastfeeding, or the provision of human milk, as a public health imperative.

“We have our nurse home-visiting program– Nurse Family Partnership, which shows that 21% more mothers breastfed at six months with the Nurse Family Partnership program compared to other low-income groups,” Waterstrat added. “Home visitors were in a unique position to meet moms to offer prenatal education and to offer nonjudgmental and culturally appropriate care.”

“I think that this is the most important proclamation that I have ever been involved in,” said Commissioner Gary Edwards.

The BOH also urged employers to provide workplace lactation support experience to its employees.

“Having people who know what they are doing and assisting parents, especially first-time parents, is so valuable,” said Commissioner Carolina Mejia.


3 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • AugieH

    Hah! Try breastfeeding in public and see how many are offended.

    Saturday, August 12, 2023 Report this

  • Vestibul

    I agree, and so does my wife. The issue for us and a lot of women that go unreported is that she had a double vasectomy from breast cancer in her early 20s. When we had our one, and only daughter, it was really hard to find donated breastmilk. There are very few organizations out there to help in situations like we were in. We were lucky in that one of her prenatal doctors was able to donate to her own breastmilk for about a two month supply. After that, reaching out to the very few organizations mostly lead to having to pay for it, and it was very expensive. I remember vividly, my wife, crying because people would make a comment to her making a formula bottle while out in public saying something to the effect of Warren. She’s breast-feeding. Your baby looks way too young to take formula. It was really hard on her, and she was made to believe that she was not a good mother by some people. Anyways, I thought I would share just in case anyone else is going through the same thing or might have to in the future.

    Sunday, August 13, 2023 Report this

  • Vestibul

    Obviously, I meant mastectomy, not vasectomy. Speech to text and not reviewing before submitting. I didn’t see anywhere to edit the comment. But I know there are other reasons as well that women cannot breast-feed.

    Sunday, August 13, 2023 Report this