In Virginia, August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month.
Breast milk is the only food that infants need for the first six months of life. It gives them all the nutrition they need along with important protection against diseases. Breastfeeding also benefits the mother by helping to decrease the risk of diseases, including breast and ovarian cancer.
Babies who are breastfed get sick less often. For moms, that means less time missed from work.
This year, the theme of World Breastfeeding Week – the first week of August – is “Making a Difference for Working Parents.” Challenges at work can mean that women never breastfeed or stop breastfeeding earlier than is recommended, according to the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee. Women with less than 3 months of maternity leave also reported that they stopped breastfeeding earlier than women with 3 or more months of leave.
The Virginia Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, passed in 2020, requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for lactating workers, including more frequent breaks to express breast milk and access to a private area for that purpose.
Mothers have been allowed by law to breastfeed in public in Virginia since 2015. A law passed in 2014 required school boards to adopt policies that provide breaks for workers and students and a private place to express breast milk to feed a child until the child reaches the age of one.
Federal funds are helping to make a difference in Virginia by supporting programs that help improve maternal and infant health, including support for breastfeeding. Federal funds also have helped to track the progress of the programs, conduct research and provide education.
Some of the programs include The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Hospitals Promoting Breastfeeding program, The Title V Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Block Grant, the Healthy Start program, The Healthy Start Doula Supplement, and the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program.
To learn more, visit the following websites: