Health Department

CONTACT INFORMATION: Our administration office at 10777 Main Street in Fairfax is open during regular business hours 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Monday - Friday. Clinic services are not offered at this location.
703-246-2411 TTY 711
10777 Main Street
Fairfax, VA 22030
Gloria Addo-Ayensu, M.D., M.P.H.
Director of Health

National Breastfeeding Awareness Month 2023

Submitted by xlschwa on Thu, 08/24/2023 - 2:14 pm

BreastfeedingAugust is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, and World Breastfeeding Week is recognized August 1-7. According to the Virginia Department of Health, 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 has numerous benefits including helping protect babies from short- and long-term illnesses and sharing antibodies from mother to baby, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The benefits don’t stop with the baby. Breastfeeding can help lower the mother’s risk of certain diseases, including breast and ovarian cancer.

Although most infants receive some breast milk, many are not exclusively breastfeeding or continuing to breastfeed as long as recommended. Sixty percent of mothers do not breastfeed for as long as they intend to. How long a mother breastfeeds her baby (duration) is influenced by many factors. According to the CDC, unsupportive work policies and lack of parental leave, cultural norms and lack of family support and unsupportive hospital practices and policies as other potential contributing factors. Disparities in breastfeeding exist as well. Fewer non-Hispanic Black infants (77.3%) are ever breastfed compared with Asian infants (87.1%), non-Hispanic White infants (85.3%) and Hispanic infants (81.9%). Infants eligible for receiving the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program through Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) are the least likely to be breastfed (74.0%). As a result, the Health Department's WIC team work closely with new mothers to promote the benefits of feeding their infants breast milk.

This year’s theme for World Breastfeeding Week was “Making a Difference for Working Parents.” Organizations across the country offered educational programming aimed at reducing the challenges breastfeeding individuals may face because of work.

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.

Because of the importance of breastfeeding for the health of mothers and babies, CDC supports continuity of care in breastfeeding support through hospital initiatives, work site accommodation, and community support initiatives. The Fairfax County Health Department partners with the Alliance for Black NICU Families, an organization working nationally and locally to support breastfeeding mothers of color. They seek to raise the voice of black families in the NICU and post-NICU in terms of creating racial and health equity through policy advocacy, professional educational initiatives, family educational initiatives, leadership mentoring of up and coming African American-led organizations and public outreach for assistance. Together, the Health Department and community partners work to support breastfeeding mothers in the Fairfax Health District.

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