Overview and context
The available evidence indicates that for a baby’s first year of life, there is no better food than breast milk. The studies point out that breastfeeding is beneficial to both the child and the mother. The benefits breastfeeding provides ranges from nutritional to health, economic and even emotional benefits. Breastfeeding promotion programs play a significant role in the society (Cadwell 88). The available evidence shows that the programs have led to an increase in the initiation, duration and exclusivity of breastfeeding.
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Statistics show that the rates of breastfeeding in the U.S. are constantly rising. As of 2011, 79% of all new born babies were being breastfeed. An infant should be breastfed for at least six months. However, reports point out that most mothers in the United States do not breastfeed their babies for as long as it is recommended. As of 2011, 49% of the mothers were breastfeeding at 6 months while only 27% were breastfeeding at 12 months (Cadwell 99).
The breastfeeding rates are particularly low among the working women and those of higher social status. A large portion of childbearing age women in the United States work outside their homes. For working women who wish to continue to breastfeed their infants, the decision to return to their jobs soon after childbirth presents significant challenges. Women whose jobs are less flexible and where the job environment is not conducive for breastfeeding face more difficulties than those women whose jobs are more flexible (Jarlenski, Bennett, and Bleich 146).
Most of these women often stop breastfeeding their infants in order to balance their job duties and taking care of the children. Given the many importance of breastfeeding to both the mothers and infants, it is important for both the working and non-working mothers to ensure that they breastfeed the children for at least six months (Chapman and Perez-Escamilla 98). This paper presents a social marketing strategy that will help improve breastfeeding rates and periods to at least six months.
Programs aimed at encouraging breastfeeding have been in place for more than two decades. The key players in these programs include the government, non-governmental organizations as well as government agencies such as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The National WIC ( Women, Infants and Children) Association was established in 1983 under the guidance of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The Association has been at the fore-front encouraging breastfeeding and other nutrition services. WIC’s programs were established to encourage infant care. The campaign has been in place since 1983 (Stavans 67). The programs were meant to provide financially deprived women, infants as well as youths with diet teachings, supplemental foods, and suitable health services. The WIC programs have made it possible for women to attain better nutritional levels and better pregnancy results (Ver Ploeg 27). By encouraging breastfeeding, the campaign has made it possible for young children to meet their physiological and cognitive development needs.
Breastfeeding sustenance, training, and campaign are a vital component of WIC’s services. A portion of the resources given to the WIC is used in the funding and boosting breastfeeding programs (Suitor 21). Since its implementation, many mothers have been able to enroll into the program. Evidence shows that those who are part of the program have embraced breast feeding and have come to appreciate the important role that breast milk plays in the development of infants. As of 1995, 59.70% of new born infants were being breastfed in the infirmary. Through the extensive network that the program boasts off, the percentage has gone up by approximately 20% (Bendick 67).
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As mentioned earlier, numerous programs are in place to encourage breastfeeding. The programs vary in terms of focus and the geographic areas they cover. Some of the programs focus on young women from poor backgrounds while others focus on working class women. One of such programs is the African American Breastfeeding Network which is based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The network organizes monthly breastfeeding programs that bring together pregnant as well as breastfeeding mothers and their families (Chrisler 56).
During the gatherings the expectant mothers as well the breastfeeding moms get a chance to interact with International Board Certified Lactation Consultants. In New York City, the department of Health and Mental Hygiene usually holds a Certified Lactation Counselors course that takes five days. The department also offers breastfeeding mothers with post-discharge support as a way of encouraging them to continue offering the infants breast milk (Chapman and Perez-Escamilla 109).
The WIC program acknowledges that it is the responsibility of every staff member to ensure that there is successful initiation and continuation of breastfeeding among many American mothers. Statistics show that programs such as WIC and others, whose focus is on promoting breastfeeding, have led to a higher rate of initiation into breastfeeding over the past three decades. As in 1971, the initiation rate was 24.7%, but two years after the turn of the new millennium, the rates had risen to approximately 70%. The number of infants at six months receiving breast milk has also increased over the same period. However, the rates have been slower in terms of growth when compared to the rate of initiation rates.
The government and other non-governmental agencies are now working in close collaboration to increase the public awareness about the benefits of breast milk. More reading materials as well as research findings have been made accessible to the general public. Studies on the importance of breast milk report that infants feed on human milk receive more health benefits than those fed on artificial baby milk (Lind and Brzuzy 101).
Most of the health benefits are present during the first years of an infant’s development during which their immunity system is still developing and the brain doubles in its size. Scientific analysis of human milk indicates that it has over 200 constituents that cannot be synthesized and introduced into baby milk formulas. Additionally, human milk is more advantageous than artificial milk in that its constituents change from time to time to meet the nutritional needs of the growing child (Chapman and Perez-Escamilla 109).
Infants who are not given breast milk are at a higher risk of getting infections than those who are given breast milk. These infections include diarrhea, pneumonia, otitis media and meningitis. Apart from the infants, breastfeeding mothers also receive a couple of health and emotional benefits. Research shows that breastfeeding contributes to the prevention of postpartum bleeding by stimulating the contraction of the uterus.
Additionally, mothers who offer breast milk to their infants are at lesser risk of developing ovarian and breast cancers. The skin to skin contact between the infant and the mother during breastfeeding stimulates the production of hormones that promote bonding between the two. Offering new born children breast milk also has economic benefits. The U.S Surgeon general recommends breastfeeding levels of 75% in hospital and 50% at six months. According to statistics, an increase in these levels would lead to the savings of a minimal of $ 3.6 per year.
The number of working women who are at child bearing age has also gone up over the past few years. Most of the breastfeeding mothers have job commitments, which have made it quite challenging for them to fulfill their breastfeeding roles.
However, more employers also realize the importance of breastfeeding and have set up programs to ensure that breastfeeding mothers get enough time to attend to their work duties as well as taking care of their infants. To enhance continued breastfeeding among working mothers, some of the strategies the employers utilize include prolonged maternity leaves, flexible work schedule, onsite baby care as well as making available a lactation room.
Despite the many benefits of breastfeeding, there are numerous barriers that prevent women from giving their children breast milk. Similarly, there are many ways through which these barriers are being dealt with. The strategies that are presently in use include educating pregnant as well as lactating mothers on the importance of breast milk, offering peer counseling services, creating conducive environment for breastfeeding at the workplace as well as at home and offering breastfeeding women food packages to enhance production of milk.
National workgroups as well as the federal government also play an important role in promoting breastfeeding. The government agencies that are directly involved in promoting breastfeeding programs and initiatives include the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services.
The key stakeholders in this issue include the government, non-governmental organizations, employers, breastfeeding and pregnant women as well as the society at large. The government is directly involved in the issue. The government comes up with laws and regulation that have a direct impact on breastfeeding practices. The government efforts in ensuring the breastfeeding programs are successful and evident in the policies and the legislation it passes.
The Healthy people 2010 report identifies breastfeeding as one of the most important health objective for the decade. The aim of the United States Department of Health and Human service aims at ensuring that at least 75% of lactating mothers feed their children in the early periods after birth and that at least 50% breastfeed the infants until they the age of six months. Both the federal and state governments have to ensure that the community and workplace environments support breastfeeding.
Non-governmental organizations have to work in collaboration with each other to ensure that their efforts to encouraging breastfeeding have a national impact. Additionally, the organizations have to work closely with both the federal and state governments. Employers will also play a significant role in the success of the current programs. Since most of the breastfeeding mothers are employed, the frequency with which the infants will get breast milk and the duration for which the mothers will be able to provide the milk largely depends on the measures the employers have in place.
Employers should be encouraged to adopt measures and strategies that allow the mothers to adequately take care of the infants. The success of the program will also depend on whether the breastfeeding and pregnant mothers are willing to adopt the suggestions. The community in general has to offer support to lactating mothers by offering them an enabling environment to breastfeed the children.
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The overall objective of this program is to ensure that more working women breastfeed their infants for at least six months. The program seeks to ensure that employers provide an enabling environment where lactating mothers can breastfeed their children. Additionally, the program seeks to offer different employers with ideas of how they can promote breastfeeding among their employees.
There are several barriers to achieving higher rates of breastfeeding among working women in the US. The main barriers are:
- Inadequate knowledge.
- Social norms.
- Lactation problems.
- Poor family and social support.
With regard to inadequate knowledge, most women in the US are aware that breast milk offers more health advantages to the infants than milk formulas. However, they are not aware of the specific health benefits of breast milk. Additionally, most mothers, especially first time mothers, are often unsure of how to breastfeed the infants. Education on breastfeeding is also not readily available. This barrier will be overcome by increasing the range of information about breastfeeding available in the public domain. The internet, especially social media sites, as well as other media outlets such as television will be used to increase public awareness about the importance of breastfeeding.
The social norms in the United States perceive bottle feeding of infants to be more appropriate than breastfeeding. Additionally, most mothers in the US feel embarrassed to breastfeed the infants, especially in places where there are many people. These barriers will be overcome by emphasizing the importance of breast milk and the fact breast milk has many nutrients that milk formulas cannot offer. Some women experience lactation problems such as sore nipples, leaking milk and failure to latch on by the infant. Early detection and treatment of these problems is crucial to overcome the barriers.
The program’s primary audience are pregnant American women from Anglo, African, and Hispanic communities. These women are divided into groups based on their earnings. As such, many women from these communities supposed that breastfeeding is a disconcerting act, which clashes with career, college, and social life (Bendick 120). Equally, women who distrusted their capabilities to breastfeed their children were also engaged. The secondary audiences are the staff working in WIC programs. It includes the expectant women’s mothers, spouses, fiancés, nutritionists, and health care staff.
The public constitutes the tertiary audience. Social customs claim that breastfeeding have a robust impact on mothers’ choices about breastfeeding their infants. Given this, the operation is managed by the public. The monitoring and assessment team acknowledges two target crowds that needed resources and policies custom-made more precisely to their wants and settings (Bendick 133). The groups comprise of prenatal health care workers employed outside WIC and indigenous communities. The desired behaviour changes were as follows: 1) To improve breastfeeding commencement rates; 2) To enhance breastfeeding duration rates among WIC members; 3) To intensify referrals for breastfeeding support; 4) To boost the public’s perception about breastfeeding.
- Social media campaigns targeting pregnant and lactating women.
- Collaborating with local women organizations to enhance public education about the benefits of breastfeeding.
- Involving employers in the public awareness campaigns.
- Using posters and stickers around neighborhoods.
To evaluate the success of the current program, the key performance indicators that will be analyzed are breastfeeding rates, level of support from birth facilities and level of professional support. Utilization of public campaigns and education is expected to lead to an increase in the breastfeeding rates of both the working and non-working mothers. The breastfeeding rates will be measured immediately after birth, up to six months and up to 12 months.
Increasing rates will be an indicator that the program is effective. With regard to level of support from birth facilities, the focus will be on how these facilities promote breastfeeding campaigns. Higher levels of involvement will be an indicator that more women are responding positively to the public awareness campaigns and education and that the collaborative efforts are bearing fruits. Professional support will be measured by looking at the number of lactation consultants as well as the number of Certified Lactation Counselors per 1000 births.
Breast milk has more benefits to an infant than formula milk. Breastfeeding rates in the US are relatively low compared to other countries. Some of the factors that have contributed to the relatively low rates include an increase in the number of working women of child bearing age as well as social norms in the society. This paper discussed the social marketing strategy that can be used to attain higher breastfeeding rates, especially among working women. It is important for working women to offer their infants breast milk for at least six months giving the health as well as emotional benefits it offers to both the infant and the mother.
Bendick, Marc. Toward Efficiency And Effectiveness In The WIC Delivery System. 3rd ed. Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute, 2006. Print.
Cadwell, Karin. Maternal And Infant Assessment For Breastfeeding And Human Lactation. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2006. Print.
Chapman, D. J., and R. Perez-Escamilla. ‘Breastfeeding Among Minority Women: Moving From Risk Factors To Interventions’. Advances in Nutrition: An International Review Journal 3.1 (2012): 95-104. Web.
Chrisler, Joan C. Reproductive Justice. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2012. Print.
Jarlenski, Marian P., Wendy L. Bennett, and Sara N. Bleich. ‘Effects Of Breastfeeding On Postpartum Weight Loss Among U.S. Women’. Preventive Medicine 69 (2014): 146-150. Web.
Lind, Amy, and Stephanie Brzuzy. Battleground. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2008. Print.
Stavans, Ilan. Health Care. Santa Barbara, CA: Greenwood, 2010. Print.
Suitor, Carol West. Planning A WIC Research Agenda. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 2011. Print.
Ver Ploeg, Michele. Estimating Eligibility And Participation For The WIC Program. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press, 2003. Print.