TN fares poorly in breastfeeding report

Tennessee is listed “near the bottom” among states for breastfeeding, reports the Johnson City Press, though improved from “dismal numbers” in the past.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2014 Report Card on breastfeeding listed Tennessee near the bottom of the U.S. for breastfeeding, which it deems as a process that has “many known health benefits for infants, children, and mothers.”

Scoring high on the agency’s report card revolves around the amount of education, provided by International Certified Lactation Consultants, which helps with the rates of breastfeeding for different ages in an infant’s development. A high score also depends on the amount of available support provided by the state.

While the 2013 report card showed dismal numbers for the Volunteer State — with comparably low numbers of children who’ve ever breastfed, were breastfed at 3, 6 and 12 months and were exclusively breastfed at those checkpoints — 2014 showed that the CDC’s initiatives were working, producing much better figures for breastfeeding proponents.

“Tennessee has made a significant jump over the last year,” said Chasta Hite, RNC, IBCLC and Mountain States Health Alliance’s lactation services manager.

…One big change that’s occurred in recent years is hospitals like MSHA taking part in the “Ban the Bag” campaign, which is a national campaign to stop formula company’s marketing in maternity hospitals. In the past, Hite said, formula companies would use births as an opportunity to get mothers hooked on their cow milk formula, rather than breastfeeding the natural way.

While formula feeding is an option, Hite said breastfeeding mothers should not be ashamed to feed their hungry babies in public, though she recognizes the sexual stigma still remains.

Note: In 2011, the Legislature approved a state law that specifically authorized public breastfeeding of an infant, regardless of age, and without the mother being prosecuted for public indecency or indecent exposure. Prior law prohibited breastfeeding of an infant more than a year old.

The CDC 2014 report gives Tennessee a score of 67 on support of breastfeeding, compared to the national average of 75. It says 74.9 percent of Tennessee babies are breastfed for at least some period versus a national average of 79.2 percent.