Breastfeeding reduces a child’s risk of obesity by up to 40 percent according to various studies reviewed by the U.S. Surgeon General.  As a newborn, a baby’s stomach is the size of a Hershey’s KissTM. Mothers are able to provide frequent and small feedings to accommodate the tiny and growing infant. As the baby’s stomach grows, so does the mother’s milk supply. The first hour of birth is a critical time for both the baby and mom in order to spend time skin-to-skin and establish the initial milk supply. But breastfeeding is much more than a feeding choice, it neurologically bonds mothers and babies and helps create “set points” that help the baby regulate their heart beat, breathing and temperature. (Nils Bergman, M.D., 2010)

In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) updated their policy recommendations on breastfeeding, stating that breastfeeding should be considered a public health issue, and not a lifestyle choice. The AAP’s conclusion is that “breastfeeding and the use of human milk confer unique nutritional and non-nutritional benefits to the infant and the mother and, in turn, optimize infant, child and adult health, as well as child growth and development.”

Despite the evidence, our nation’s breastfeeding rates continue to fall short of the recommendations of Healthy People 2020.  A report by Melissa Bartick in 2010 and published in the journal, Pediatrics, concluded that 13 billion dollars in healthcare costs could be saved annually if 90 percent of families complied with medical recommendations to breastfeed exclusively for 6 months.  In addition to the many benefits to a child, breastfeeding has also been shown to lower the risk of breast, ovarian and endometrial cancers in women, as well as lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Local Response

WIC Peer Counselors

WIC peer counselors provide partial funding to provide free breastfeeding peer counselors for WIC moms. Last year, more than 1,200 WIC clinic patients were encouraged to breastfeed by their peer counselors. This led to a 43 percent increase in breastfeeding duration, from 14 to 20 weeks.

Certified Lactation Counselor Training

Certified Lactation Counselor training was provided to 75 individuals. This number, in addition to another 23 trained in 2010, resulted in nearly 100 new breastfeeding champions. Two of those attending training received the highest certification.

Hospital Policy Roundtable

All Omaha area hospitals partner to promote baby and mom-friendly policies throughout area hospitals. Although hospital policy was slow to change, every hospital in Douglas County has now implemented at least five out of the World Heath Organization’s “Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding.”

In January 2012, Alegent Creighton Health hospitals made a significant policy change to promote breastfeeding in their maternity department by no longer furnishing formula gift bags for patients at discharge. Also, Alegent Creighton Health NICU department created new policy around providing breast milk for their very low weight infants.

Employer Support

Employer lunch and learns are available to educate businesses about how to support working moms in their transition to work while pumping. In 2012, three businesses in Omaha created lactation spaces for public and employee use. Contact Arli Boustead at or 402-343-4692.

Medical Provider Education

Physicians are influential on a mother’s choice to breastfeed before delivery. Medical providers including Certified Lactation Counselors around the city have been trained to serve as patient advocates for breastfeeding to ensure parents get all the information they need to make an informed choice. To help this effort, a DVD was created to educate physicians about using appropriate breastfeeding promoting language with their prenatal patients.

Local Resources

The benefits of breastfeeding are numerous, but breastfeeding isn’t always easy.  There are many organizations that will help you if you experience problems.  The first 40 days are thought to be the hardest. At this time, you are establishing your milk supply from about 1 ounce on Day 1 to about 25 ounces on Day 40.  Breastfeeding will become easier for both you and your baby.

For more information, or if you’d like to join the Live Well Omaha Kids Breastfeeding Committee, please contact Arli Boustead at or 402-343-4692.