BreastfeedingThe Partnership works to encourage breastfeeding because breast milk offers the optimum nutrition for babies, and breastfeeding offers health benefits for the mother as well as the baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended exclusive breastfeeding for six months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complimentary foods are introduced for one year or longer as mutually desired by the infant and mother.

Although much is known about the benefits of breastfeeding for both the baby and the mother, breastfeeding rates in West Virginia are well below the national average. The Partnership has been actively working to effect policy changes that will encourage breastfeeding. The Partnership initially began a breastfeeding coalition in 2007 to educate the public about breastfeeding, protect the right to breastfeed, and promote breastfeeding. In 2008, the group evolved into the West Virginia Breastfeeding Alliance (WVBFA) through the Healthcare Education Foundation, a subsidiary of the West Virginia Hospital Association.

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The Partnership and the WVBA provide a wide variety of educational opportunities throughout the state on the importance of breastfeeding. They also have honored hospitals and birthing facilities who have improved breastfeeding rates by joining the national Ban the Bags campaign to stop distributing bags of infant formula materials. Berkeley Medical Center in Martinsburg, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Buckhannon, and FamilyCare Women’s Health and Birth Center in Scott Depot, were the first to receive awards for increasing breastfeeding rates by their participation in this campaign,

A new resource from the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) is designed to help family physicians and their office teams foster a positive breastfeeding environment for patients. The Breastfeeding Support and Resources Toolkit is intended to be a companion to the AAFP’s position paper on breastfeeding, and includes resources from a variety of sources, including the US Breastfeeding Committee. The toolkit is broken down into four sections: Office-Based Tools, Community-Based Tools, Advocacy Resources, and Evidence-Based Knowledge. Go to the AAFP website to learn more.

  • Ban the Bags award: Family Care
  • Ban the Bags award: St. Joseph's Hospital
  • Ban the Bags award: Berkeley Medical Center

Above: During a November 7, 2014 event at the Governor’s mansion, First Lady Joanne Tomblin and Cinny Kittle presented the Partnership’s and the West Virginia Breastfeeding Alliance’s awards for encouraging and supporting breastfeeding by “Banning the Bags” of infant formula at area hospitals and registering for this national campaign. Pictured: Staff members from Family Care (left), St. Joseph’s Hospital (middle), and Berkeley Medical Center (right).

One of the other ways the Partnership and the WVBA have increased breastfeeding rates in hospitals and birthing centers is by presenting workshops for labor and delivery nurses so they initiate skin-to-skin contact for newborns and their mother immediately after birth. Kangaroo care, or skin-to-skin as it is often called, involves placing the newborn on the mother’s chest as soon as possible after birth. During this contact, the baby can rest and recover from birth, smell mom’s scent, hear her heartbeat and voice, and begin the first, most important milk feeding at the breast.

The Partnership and the WVBA have worked for years to pass legislation passed that would allow a mother to breastfeed a child in any location open to the public. Finally, in 2013, the West Virginia Legislature passed the Child’s Right To Nurse Act that went into effect on June 6, 2014.

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